Working Families Shared Parental Leave Pioneers
The introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) has given employers the chance to think about what they expect from men and women in their workforce when they become parents, and to re-assess their policy frameworks to provide more choice for new mothers and fathers. Employers have responded to this opportunity with creativity and commitment. New SPL policies are generous, both in terms of provision and in intention and there are really encouraging examples that are designed to remove as many obstacles to parents using SPL as possible.
What characterises good policy? What elements are essential, and what can other organisations learn and replicate to develop their own SPL scheme? Firstly, SPL should be easy to take and, ideally, patterns of leave should be neutral: certain configurations shouldn’t be prioritised or incentivised over different ones. Maintaining choice is important. Pay is also important, and evidence from other countries has consistently shown that any kind of paternity leave needs to be paid generously enough to make it a viable option for families.
What organisations here have recognised is the new opportunity that SPL affords men who, for the first time, can take extended periods out of the workplace for childcare reasons if they are eligible. Using SPL, they are able to close the gap between paternal and maternal statutory provision and organisations fundamentally understand SPL is also a way to address some of the persistent issues that have affected women’s careers post childbirth. Good SPL policies are more than a benefit for individual families. They are a useful tool for any organisation that is interested in equality and opportunity, talent retention and development.
What we can see is very encouraging: the Working Families SPL Pioneers are employers who have really stepped up and delivered innovative SPL policies and they’re all very different. The coming year will be interesting, as fathers and mothers begin to take these policies up and no doubt there will be refinements and tweaks as these new opportunities bed in. Rates of take up will be particularly interesting. It’s still the case that, after a new baby arrives, most fathers remain full time at work whilst mothers reduce their hours. Will SPL start to change this – shaping domestic and parenting habits as they are forming, and allowing couples to look afresh at not only how they share care, but how they share work, too? We will have to wait and see.
Congratulations to the organisations listed here, who have been recognised not only for their new SPL policies, but also for the way in which they have embraced the opportunity to make a real difference to both families and to the wider workplace culture around family and care.