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Parenting Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave

The Benefits And Downsides Of Shared Parental Leave

Are you an expectant dad? If so, you are probably considering whether you should take Shared Parental Leave (SPL). 

Just in case you aren’t familiar with SPL, it’s a way of allowing parents to spend time at home following the birth of a child while also receiving some pay. These days parents get 50 weeks of leave that they can share between them following the arrival of a child (In shorthand, both parents could take six months of leave, or mum could take nine months and dad three months etc.).

Personally, I would encourage any dad to take SPL. It’s an awesome way to get to know your child and develop your fatherhood skills. Here are a few pros and cons to taking SPL that you should keep in mind.

Father And Child Form A Closer Bond

This is probably the most important point to keep in mind. Vast amounts of research has shown that a father who is involved with his child from day one forms a better bond with his child and stays involved, no matter what the future holds. Even if the parents get divorced in later life, a dad who has been hands on from the very start continues to play an important role in his offspring’s life. Taking SPL and spending time with your offspring in those very early days will have huge benefits for your relationship with your child and in turn, make the family happier.

You Are A Trailblazer

SPL has been around for a few years, but it’s still a relatively new concept. To some, the idea of a man looking after young children is revolutionary. Some people have never heard of SPL and take up of the leave among men is still quite low. As a result, dads who take SPL are real trailblazers. It shows you are serious about being an involved dad and you are taking advantage of a right that was denied to previous generations of men. Make the most of it!

Mum Benefits Too

The old paternity leave system simply assumed dad was only needed at home for a fortnight, after which mum could hop, skip and jump around the family home doing everything from breastfeeding to vacuuming the floor (…probably both at the same time). If you’ve ever lived with a woman who has given birth, you will know this is absolute rubbish! Two weeks is the absolute minimum most women need to recover. SPL gives dad the chance to be around for longer and help mum following the physical trauma of giving birth.

Mum’s Career Can Also Benefit

I think this is one of the most overlooked benefits of SPL. If both parents share SPL between them, mum no longer has to assume she’s got to take a year away from work because dad only gets two weeks paternity leave. Each parent could share six months of leave, reducing mum’s absence from the workplace. It also gives dad a greater chance to be active on the domestic front, lessening the childcare and housework burden on his partner.

Statutory Shared Parental Leave Pay Is Low

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Statutory Shared Parental Pay is not well paid. At the time of writing, the Government will only pay you £151.20 a week, or 90% of your salary (whichever is less). If you take SPL, you will probably need to watch your outgoings for a while. This brings me on to a slight anomaly in the SPL system. . . 

Women Are More Likely To Receive Enhanced Pay From Employers

It’s very common for employers to voluntarily pay new mums and dads a percentage of their salary while they are taking SPL. Only thing is, some employers will pay a dad just two weeks’ pay, whereas a mum may receive some kind of payment from their employer for months (this essentially replicates the old maternity / paternity pay system that existed before 2015). This is a major barrier to some men taking SPL as they can’t afford the drop in income. You need to check if your employer pays enhanced benefits and if so what you might expect to receive.

Final Words On Shared Parental Leave

If you would like to find out more about Shared Parental Leave and Pay, there’s plenty on the .GOV website. Please do also remember that SPL is your right as an employee so do not be shy of asking for it.

I will finish with a quote from Simon Hall, a Director of Corporate Finance at BDO LLP. Simon is a dad I spoke to when writing an article about SPL for my own blog. He had recently taken SPL himself following the arrival of his daughter Jessica. 

He gave me the most amazing quote summing up his experience. I hope you find it inspiring and seriously consider taking SPL yourself: 

“From a personal perspective, SPL meant we could both be around for some really key milestones, like hearing Jessica’s first words, helping her wean onto solid foods, and taking her to meet her extended family for the first time.”

Simon Hall, a Director of Corporate Finance at BDO LLP