Taking time off to have a baby when you have an established career and are reliant on your earnings can be a daunting task. On the one hand you want to spend time with your baby and watch the first milestones take place; on the other you have a career you worked hard for and earnings that will be missed from the family pot. It is a dilemma that most working mums are faced with at some point.
The Children and Families Act 2014 acknowledges and attempts to assist with this. The Act has further qualified the idea of Parental Leave and made provisions for Shared Parental Leave and Pay to take effect from 15th April 2015. This gives recognition to the fact that now many mothers are the main breadwinners in the family and cannot or do not wish to take the full maternity leave period. Will we finally be appreciated and rewarded?
The concept of Shared Parental Leave means that the mother’s partner can take time off and the leave can be taken and shared between them. There are 52 weeks of leave and the leave can be taken in three blocks. In an instance whereby a mother wished to return to work after 24 weeks leave, the other parent would be able to take the remaining leave entitlement. Another option could be a mother taking off 24 weeks, the other parent taking the remaining paid leave up until 39 weeks and then, if the mother wished to, she could take the remaining 13 weeks unpaid until the 52 weeks leave was up. It also means that if she did not wish to do so, the other parent could choose to stay off or return to work after 39 weeks. There is also an ability for both parents to take the leave together if they choose to.
So sleepless nights can be shared, you maybe able to keep your career active and both parents finally get the much coveted bonding time.
Radically the Shared Parental Leave provisions in the Act also apply to working mums who adopt or who have a baby via surrogacy arrangements, which is a significant change in the way the UK sees alternative family structures.
The Act reflects more non-traditional family roles and should be of benefit to working mums by increasing their options if they want to return to work, but are not quite ready to hand over baby to external childcare providers. It’s also a far more cost effective approach as often salary v childcare v maternity just doesn’t always add up.
In practice, it should make some indent into the stereotype of more traditional parenting roles and allow each parent an ability to experience being a stay at home and a working parent during the period of leave. Whether you can convince the other parent to stay at home and change nappies is of course another matter…………………
If you have any further questions or would like further information regarding Shared Parental Leave, please contact me on Karen@acitylawfirm.com.
*Karen Holden runs a successful law firm in London that she set up herself. She juggles running a business, managing staff and being a mum. Hopefully her legal updates or practical tips will help you as working mums.