New rights to grand parental leave

The Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014 were introduced in the UK last April in the hope that this would encourage more equality in the workplace by encouraging both genders to take caring responsibilities for their children.

A summary of the Regulations is set out in our previous bulletin. In brief, the legislation allows parents who meet certain eligibility criteria to share leave after their child is born or adopted for up to 12 months. Initial research, conducted at the beginning of last year, suggested that around 4 out of 5 of potential parents would consider taking shared parental leave. It was therefore anticipated that there would be a reasonable uptake of this new right.

However, a recent report published by the Institute of Leadership and Management has indicated that, during 2014, less than 1 in 10 new fathers took more than the basic 2 weeks’ statutory entitlement to paternity leave.

Lisa Outram, Solicitor in the Employment team at The Wilkes Partnership, comments: “At this stage, it seems that shared parental has been a lot less popular than originally expected. Contributing factors may include a perceived stigma attached to men becoming primary carers, concerns that this will jeopardise career progression for fathers and other financial pressures.”??Lisa Outram adds: “It appears that new legislation in isolation will not revolutionise the existing norm of mothers taking extended leave from employment. Commentators have suggested that a change in attitude amongst society in general is necessary along with more support being offered by employers to new fathers. This could, in turn, improve retention levels of employees.”

Notwithstanding the above, a further interesting development in this area has now been announced by the Government. Due to be implemented in 2018, shared parental leave and pay will also be extended to working grandparents.

Currently, the only right for grandparents with at least 26 continuous weeks of service is to apply for a request for flexible working to change their working patterns in the event that they wish to share the care of their grandchildren during working time.

Lisa Outram comments: “Evidence suggests that around 2 million grandparents have taken time off work, reduced their working hours or even resigned from a job altogether to look after their grandchildren. Moving forwards, employers will therefore need to be prepared for an entirely new influx of requests for shared parental leave from an older section of the workforce. This is likely to have implications, particularly for smaller businesses, in terms of creating further complications to internal HR processes, extra administration and costs. Employers will also need to take care not to discriminate against older workers in any way when dealing with requests.”

It remains to be seen whether this further development will have a greater impact than the changes implemented thus far in enabling more mothers to return to work and to pursue senior roles.

If you would like to discuss any issue or query arising from this update please contact Lisa Outram or your usual contact in the Employment team. Alternatively email us at [email protected].

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