Shared Parental Leave, More than a Policy! By Charlotte Sweeney

The Government launched the much anticipated Shared Parental Leave (SPL) Regulations on the 1st December 2014 which apply to employees who expect to become parents on or after 5th April 2015, including adoptive parents. These new regulations give parents flexibility to share caring responsibilities between themselves, enabling them to choose how they would like to arrange the care for their child.

There are numerous articles available giving effective overviews of what this means for employers, what they should now be doing and how to communicate this to leaders, managers and employees. A couple of good examples of practical support can be found at Personnel Today and ACAS.

However, what the majority of the resources and guidance documents don’t focus on is the fact that this is a significant societal and cultural change for many companies that cannot be delivered purely by writing policies and guidance documents. The delivery of the regulations do two things… firstly, it moves the care discussion from one that predominately affects women to one that can have an impact on anyone in the workplace. Secondly, it gives couples the flexibility and choice to decide how they would like to care for their child and make it work for their personal circumstances. These, in turn, hope to shift the cultural discussion and assumptions around parental leave. But will they?

This also comes at the same time as the TUC launch a report highlighting that pregnancy and motherhood still hurt career progress and urges employers to publish their return-to-work rates and better promote flexible working across the whole workforce. A copy of the full report can be accessed here.

This highlights that there is still more to do about the assumptions made about women taking time out to have a family and the structures within a workplace that see different ways of working as ‘not the norm’.

Any organisation serious about creating a workplace that is open and engaging to parents, regardless of how they decide to use their Shared Parental Leave, should place more emphasis on what this would mean for their culture and what they would need to change, do differently or how to encourage a change in behaviour from key employees such as mid level managers.

At Charlotte Sweeney Associates we have been involved directly with Government in the SPL discussions and creation given our knowledge of designing and creating holistic ‘Parental Programmes’ within companies. If you would like to a copy of our infographic highlighting the key aspects to consider when creating your SPL offering please contact info@charlottesweeney.com.

Undoubtedly, to implement the change will take some time and won’t all be plain sailing. However, I’m hopeful we will look back at this in ten years time and wonder what all the fuss was about!

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