Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is the new employment law that everyone is talking about, and opinions have been divided. On the one hand it brings flexibility and choice for working parents, on the other it presents staff management challenges for employers.
One certain, however, is that the opportunity for working couples to share 50 weeks of parental leave and 37 weeks of statutory parental pay is a step change that could have a significant impact on the recruitment market.
It will influence the decisions that people make about where they work. According to a recent survey by Enterprise UK, two thirds of employees already take a company's family policies into account when they are looking for a job. One in five said they had based their decision to accept or reject a job based on this.
So what will SPL mean for existing employees and potential recruits?
Research from the London School of Economics has found that workplaces with family-friendly policies that will accommodate requests for SPL perform better. That will find favour with candidates who are seeking a motivational and engaging place to work.
The new SPL legislation will also resonate with women who are career focused but also want to have a family. If they want to return to work earlier they can do so if the father can share their maternity leave.
The breaks that women take for maternity, means that they lose skills and experience at important times in their careers, even when they can return to the same job. Taking shorter periods of leave, a few weeks at a time instead of several months in one go, as SPL is designed to do, means they can stay connected with work and keep their skills up to date.
Fathers, too, may find their career benefits from taking their share of parental care responsibilities; with a better quality of family life, they may feel better able to focus on their performance at work, which could reap rewards in terms of career progression.
Parents could choose to take 25 weeks at the same time, although the shared leave and potentially the pay entitlements will be used up more quickly.
There are still many unknowns around SPL.The number of fathers who will qualify for shared parental leave benefits, or are likely to use them, is still unknown.
Pay will be a key factor in terms of employees’ decisions to take SPL.
Around a fifth of employers plan to offer enhanced pay over and above the statutory SPL pay, currently £139.58 per week for the first 39 weeks, according to research from XpertHR. Without enhanced pay from their employer, many working parents may find they cannot afford to take SPL.
However, for job candidates who are looking for the dream combination of a family friendly workplace culture and excellent career prospects, organisations that support workplace flexibility and family friendly policies, including SPL, could be the ones receiving their letters of acceptance.