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Government Launches Campaign to Promote Shared Parental Leave (SPL)

Laura Binnie

Laura Binnie, Associate Solicitor in our Employment Law Team, explains Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and the Government's campaign to raise awareness following its introduction in 2015.

The Department for Business revealed earlier this month that around 285,000 couples are eligible every year for Shared Parental Leave (SPL), but take-up rates “could be as low as 2%”. To exacerbate the issue, around half of the general public are currently unaware that the rights exist, nearly three years after it was first introduced. Industry experts have indicated that as well as a lack of general awareness of the available rights, other cultural barriers and stigmas, together with financial penalties, are deterring some new parents from sharing parental leave.

In response, the government will launch a campaign, backed by a £1.5 million investment, including focused advertising on social media, adverts in train stations and along commuter routes, together with a dedicated website in an attempt to encourage couples to take advantage of the flexibility the rights provide and to ‘share the joy’ of parenting.

Ironically, the Business Minister Andrew Griffiths, the man responsible for SPL, revealed in a recent interview on BBC’s Radio 5 that while his wife is due to give birth in the spring, he is not actually eligible to take the yearlong shared leave available to new parents. As an elected official, the Business Minister along with fellow MPs, is not entitled to SPL.

Shared Parental Leave explained

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is a relatively new right introduced in 2015 which allows couples who are having a baby, or adopting a child, to share leave with a partner, and/or to split up the leave whereby they each take a proportion of the mother’s usual maternity leave entitlement.  Essentially, the 50 weeks of maternity leave available (following the compulsory first two weeks reserved for the mother) can be shared between the couple as they wish, although discontinuous blocks of leave need an employer’s agreement. Provided SPL is taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday, or within one year of adoption, eligible parents can share both the leave and the pay normally available to the mother. SPL is paid at the same rate as statutory maternity leave. The rules mean that parents can pursue a more flexible shared parental leave schedule, rather than the traditional maternity leave route.

For example, a mother may choose to end her maternity leave after 16 weeks following the child’s birth, allowing her partner the ability to take the remaining 36 weeks. Alternatively, the couple may choose to take time off together (e.g. for 26 weeks if using the full entitlement between them).

The rights do not affect the usual maternity and paternity leave entitlements, with fathers still being allowed two weeks of paternity leave.

For further information or legal advice, please contact Laura Binnie or a member of our team.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.