• Lee Calver
  • 27 May 2014

Is the prospect of shared parental leave causing employers a headache?

According to new research looking at how businesses feel about upcoming changes to legislation concerning shared parental leave, the majority of companies are still confused about their policies and how the changes will affect them when they come into force in April 2015.

Shared parental legislation became law in March and as of April 2015 will give families the opportunity to share 12 months of leave after the birth of a child, helping women to return to work sooner and also allowing men to have more involvement in childcare duties.

However, a joint research study carried out by My Family Care and Hogan Lovells discovered that only 15% of employers have a clear idea of how they will implement the new provision for staff who are parents.

The research also found that the biggest concern is currently around the amount of internal administrative changes the legislation will create, while a number of those companies questioned also revealed anxieties over managing resources in periods of leave and communicating these changes to staff.

In addition, others noted a lack of certainty around pay under shared parental leave.

Commenting on the findings, Employment Partner at Hogan Lovells, Ed Bowyer, said:

"Many organisations are still at the "drawing board" stage – which is probably not surprising given that the draft regulations were published only fairly recently – and a significant proportion, over 35%, are just preparing to sit down at that drawing board.

"Notwithstanding, a key concern from the outset is around how resource can be managed if people take time off in less predictable chunks; with 80% of respondents indicating that internal administration and system changes are a key concern."

The survey, which involved companies from a wide variety of sectors, demonstrates the need for help when dealing with these changes. Ben Black, Founder of My Family Care, which provides solutions that allow employees to manage their family care while working, said:

“This research shows the dire need for companies to really evaluate what the changes mean to them.  These are massive changes that are monumental in the way that fatherhood is perceived, officially giving men a more proactive role in bringing up a child from the very start, while giving female employees the chance to return to work earlier. 

“Ultimately what companies choose to do will depend on whether they want their employees to take it up and how it fits in with their strategic goals.”

He continued:

“It was uplifting to see that the majority of companies questioned (59%) perceive the new SPL policies as an opportunity to enhance their family-friendly policies and a third (33%) said that it fits well with their aims of being more gender neutral about parenting showing the massive waves that have been made in employment over the past 20 years.”

Offering advice to employers who currently have concerns, Workplace Law HR Consultant, Heidi Thompson, said: 

“It is understandable for companies to have concerns around this significant change. I think the change will ultimately benefit employers and employees with the current gender imbalance in many sectors. But like all policies, legislation can only do so much and will take a significant cultural shift for parents to take up the offering on a huge scale and is likely to take a number of years.”

Heidi added:

“In the short term, employers review their administrative processes and policies and consider how they will manage the change. In reality, the maternity process already requires a robust admin process and this will be merely an extension of this, the biggest challenge being the sharing of information between companies. 

“For smaller organisations, I would advise they seek advice in the first instance to ensure they are clear on the process and paperwork needed to give them the added security that their policies will reflect the changes.”