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A comprehensive report published by the DBT, assesses the effectiveness of shared parental leave (SPL) in achieving its original objectives. The report sheds light on the low take-up rates of SPL and its impact on parents and employers.
The data analysis
An analysis of extensive data reveals that take-up rates remain significantly low but consistent with initial estimations when the policy was introduced in 2015. Among eligible couples, only 1% of employee mothers and 5% of employee fathers or partners opted for SPL following the birth or adoption of their child.
Take-up rates vary among different groups of parents, influenced by factors such as age, income, qualification level, and occupational status. Notably, SPL take-up is higher among fathers and partners in central government organisations, predominantly female workplaces, and organisations with a trade union presence.
Who chose Shared Parental Leave?
Parents who choose SPL and shared parental pay (ShPP) are more likely to be older, of white ethnicity, highly qualified, work in large organisations, earn a higher income, and hold progressive gender role attitudes. In contrast, parents who do not take up SPL and ShPP often have different characteristics.
Feedback about Shared Parental Leave policy
Feedback from parents who have experienced SPL highlights benefits in terms of work-life balance, offering more choice and flexibility in managing work and caregiving responsibilities.
The majority of parents who took SPL expressed satisfaction with their current working arrangements (85%). Employers also generally expressed satisfaction with the policy, noting advantages such as increased flexibility for parents and assistance with staff recruitment and retention. However, some parents reported not taking up SPL due to the perceived complexity of setting up and managing the process, and 15% of fathers or partners who took SPL stated that it negatively impacted their career progression.
Barriers to using Shared Parental Leave
The report identifies certain barriers and challenges associated with SPL, including the reliance on mothers sharing their leave entitlement, which can hinder fathers or partners from taking longer periods of parental leave. Issues cited by employers include difficulties finding cover and accommodating discontinuous blocks of leave, while limited awareness of the policy in the workplace makes requesting leave more challenging.
Despite these challenges, the report highlights several societal benefits, such as employers with staff taking SPL being more likely to offer flexible working arrangements and promote family-friendly policies.
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