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Just 9,200 new parents took advantage of the Shared Parental Leave scheme in 2017/18, according to official figures.
The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request by law firm EMW show only 500 more parents than last year took SPL – around 1% of all eligible parents.
Introduced in April 2015, Shared Parental Leave allows both new parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay between them, in place of maternity leave and pay.
Jon Taylor, Principal in EMW’s Employment team, said: “Even accounting for a period of time to bed in the new programme, take up is remarkably low. This is a result not only of cultural factors, the gender pay gap and also the simple economics of parents ensuring they are able to pay for new children.”
“Gender pay reporting shows that nationally there is still a significant gap between the salaries of women and men. So when it comes to deciding which salary will be sacrificed during maternity leave it often makes economic sense to give up the lower salary, which is often the woman’s.”
“The experiences of missing out on promotions, pay rises and discriminatory treatment that many women taking maternity leave report may also further discourage the take up of shared parental leave.”
“Many employers offer enhanced maternity leave and pay schemes, but don’t – and have no obligation to – offer similarly enhanced shared parental leave and pay schemes. Therefore, taking maternity leave remains the logical option for many couples.”
He added: “New parents still aren’t making the most of Shared Parental Leave, despite the flexibility it can offer. Employers may find that being open and approachable about parental leave could help to improve loyalty and retention of talented staff.”