Just weeks after the Government confirmed its intention to extend rights to Shared Parental Leave to Grandparents reports in today’s press reveal that only 1% of fathers have taken up the leave.
This is considerably lower than even the moderate estimates that the Government had put forward when it was introduced last year but is it really surprising?
The fact is that a father still has no independent right to take leave to look after their child except for one or two weeks paternity leave around the time of the birth or adoption.
The introduction of shared parental only gave mothers the right to decide if they wanted to return to work early from maternity or adoption leave and share their remaining entitlement with their partner.
How many mums really want to do that?
The answer that is often given is that financially it might be better for the mum to be back in work if she is the main bread winner. Which does appear to make sense but then if the mum has the better paid job isn’t it more likely that she will also be entitled to the better rate of shared parental pay?
The importance of finances was highlighted by the fact that 80% of employees in the surveys featured in today’s press reports admitted sharing leave would depend on finances.
The statutory pay rate for Shared Parental Leave is set at a maximum of £139.58 a week or 90% of wages if less. It has been that rate since April 2015 and will remain unchanged until at least April 2017. Statutory maternity pay rates are more generous in the first six weeks as the employee will be entitled to receive 90% of her normal pay rather than a flat rate. Again this would not encourage a mother to give up her right to leave as it would mean that the statutory rate of pay would be reduced.
There is a startling contrast with the way in which parental leave schemes are operated in Sweden and Norway under which employees have between 80% and 100% of their earnings protected whilst on leave. Maybe it is not so surprising that in those countries almost 90% of fathers take up the opportunity for leave.
The Government has responded to the news today with a promise to review the system in 2018 but in the meantime will continue with its plans to carry out public consultation on the extension of shared parental leave rights to grandparents. However will mums be more willing to share their leave with grandparents?