With just weeks to go until the right to Shared Parental Leave takes effect, many employers are still unclear on the detail of the Shared Parental Leave Regulations, and understandably so.
Although the concept of Shared Parental Leave is simple, being that the mother ends her maternity leave and the mother and father can then share what would have been the remainder of her maternity leave, the detail is far more complex. There are fears that the complexity of the provisions will catch out small employers, lead to confusion over entitlement and actually put parents off contemplating accessing the right to shared parental leave.
In addition, some commentators take the view that whilst the availability of shared parental leave is to be welcomed, in reality it is likely to make little difference to the current position, particularly when the low take-up for additional paternity leave (the predecessor of shared parental leave) is considered. Having said that, the flexibility of shared parental leave may make it more attractive to parents.
Whether the new provisions will genuinely empower fathers, or simply create headaches for both employers and employees remains to be seen. There is a strong argument that the provisions would be more empowering if they were more accessible for both employers and employees. It seems likely that shared parental leave will, in one guise or another, remain a popular concept given that it does allow families more choice over care for their child and could, potentially, reduce discrimination against women of child bearing age. However whether it survives in its current format longer than the previous additional paternity leave provisions (which came into effect in April 2011 and will cease to have effect in April 2015) remains to be seen.
We have produced an article which summarises the key provisions of the Shared Parental Leave Regulations.