The number of staff applying for Shared Parental Leave is expected to rise over the next 12 months, according to a survey of Wiltshire-based employers conducted in the run up to the first anniversary since the controversial new laws were introduced.
Almost two-thirds of Wiltshire businesses that took part in the survey run by the employment law team at Withy King and Henlee Resourcing & Consulting, said they expected staff to apply for Shared Parental Leave this year.
Just 36 per cent said they didn’t expect any take up in 2016, a significant drop from the 75 per cent who reported no take up in 2015.
Helen Lucas, an employment solicitor at Withy King in Swindon, said: “Our survey reveals that there has been a very low level of take up of Shared Parental Leave since the new laws were introduced for working parents of babies born on or after 5th April 2015. This is expected to change in 2016, as more parents become aware of their options.
“Many of the employers we surveyed complained about the complexity of the new rules which some found ‘confusing’, as well as the large quantities of paperwork. They felt that a general lack of understanding on the part of both employers and employees might explain why take up in the first year has been so low.”
Lee Krawczyk-Brown, managing director at Henlee Resourcing based in Wootton Bassett, agreed: “The survey results together with conversations we have had with both candidates and clients reveal there is still a lack of understanding on the part of both employees and employers as to what Shared Parental Leave is all about and what the options are,” he said. “As a result, we get the impression that many employers are not promoting Shared Parental Leave as much as they could. It’s clear there is still a lot more work to be done if this scheme is to be successful in the future.”
The majority of Wiltshire businesses surveyed (77 per cent) said applications for Shared Parental Leave were at the level they had anticipated – but 19 per cent said take-up was even lower than they were expecting.
Over half (59 per cent) thought the main reason was loss of earnings, while one in five thought cultural perception or stigma might be a factor.
Withy King’s Helen Lucas added: “While external factors and personal circumstances will always be the major driver, it’s clear that employers can do more to level the playing field. It was interesting that 30 per cent of employers offered enhanced payments over and above the statutory requirements for normal maternity leave, but didn’t extend this to Shared Parental Leave. A disparity between the two schemes will clearly make one less attractive and in many cases, less viable.”
While Wiltshire employers said take-up of Shared Parental Leave was likely to increase in 2016, numbers are expected to remain small with 62 per cent predicting applications from less than two per cent of their workforce.
Pictured above: Helen Lucas, employment solicitor at Withy King in Swindon