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Shared Parental Leave: Nine Months and Counting

Understanding employee attitudes to shared parental leave

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Shared Parental Leave: Nine Months and Counting

Introduction
About the survey

This report is based on an online


survey of 125 male and 125 female
employees across a spread of FTSE 100
companies in the UK. All respondents
have had a baby in the last two years
or are going to become parents in the
next six months. Of those surveyed,
30% are employed at management
level or above and 70% are operational
and support staff. The survey was
conducted in September 2014.

Shared parental leave (SPL) is a completely


new type of family leave available to
parents of babies due or children placed
for adoption from 5 April 2015. Expected
to give new parents greater flexibility,
it allows for up to a combined maximum
of 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of
statutory pay to be shared by the parents
who can choose to take this leave together
or independently of one another. It is
perhaps the biggest change to the
structure of family leave that has ever
been seen in this country, reflecting wider
social objectives of encouraging the
engagement of women in the workplace
and challenging the gender stereotypes
of the involvement of mothers and fathers
in childcare.
The concept may be simple but the detail
of the new regime is not. This, alongside
the practical issues and cultural change
required for successful implementation,
presents a totally new challenge for
employers. Linklaters has been exploring
the key questions and issues surrounding
the introduction of the leave (which will
be in force from 1 December 2014 but
will apply only to babies due, or children
adopted, after 5 April 2015) in a series
of monthly briefings.

As employers prepare for the change,


understanding employee attitudes to
shared parental leave is key in assessing
the likely impact of the new regime
on their organisation. To address this,
we commissioned research looking at
the attitude of employees of FTSE 100
employers.
In this report we set out our key findings
in relation to employee attitudes to
shared parental leave alongside practical
details of how the new right will work in
practice, and our insight into how our
findings are likely to inform employer
decisions in relation to shared parental
pay, including the all important question
of enhanced pay.

250

This report is based on


an online survey of equal
numbers of males and
females employed by
FTSE 100 companies.

Shared Parental Leave: Nine Months and Counting

New rights, key findings


For the first time in
England and Wales, eligible
new parents will have the
opportunity to take leave in
the first year of their childs
life in a fully flexible way.

Overview of new entitlement


>> Shared leave and pay:
Mothers who have given birth must take
two weeks of compulsory maternity
leave and pay, the remaining 50 weeks
of leave and 37 weeks of statutory
pay is available to the parents to take
as shared parental leave and share
between them, subject to eligibility.
>> Pattern of leave:
Parents can both take SPL at the same
time or they can each take a period of
SPL independently of the other.
>> Maternity leave still available:
SPL is an alternative to traditional
maternity leave.
>> Additional paternity leave:
APL will be abolished.
>> Sacrifice of maternity rights:
For either parent to take SPL, the mother
must give up her rights to maternity
leave and pay. These cannot usually
be reinstated.
>> Benefit to working families:
Only employees are entitled to SPL
and parents who are not employed
must satisfy a test of minimum
economic activity for their co-parent
to be eligible.

>> Interdependent entitlement:


Each parent must personally meet
the requirements for SPL, and their
co-parent must also meet specified
requirements, even if the co-parent
is not themselves entitled to take SPL.
For more information on who is
eligible to take SPL, please see our
August briefing.
>> Notice requirements:
Mothers must give notice to end
maternity leave and pay, notice of
entitlement and intention to take SPL
and a period of leave notice. Fathers
must also give notice of entitlement
and intention to take SPL and a
period of leave notice.
>> Discontinuous blocks:
SPL can be taken in one block or
several discontinuous blocks.
Employees can give up to three
notices of an intention to take SPL and
each notice can specify one or more
blocks of leave. An employer must
agree to a request for a single period
of SPL, given in one notice (even if
previous blocks of SPL have been
taken), but can refuse a request for
multiple blocks of SPL specified in a
single notice.

Key findings

The employees surveyed indicated


clearly that shared parental leave is
of interest, and provides attractive
advantages. In practice, the offer of
additional pay by employers (beyond
the statutory entitlement) is a key factor
that would influence the decision of
an employee interested in SPL to take
it. The absence of enhanced pay is
a key factor that would influence an
employee interested in SPL not to take
it. Employers concerned about the
cost of any potential offer of additional
pay to employees on shared parental
leave may take comfort from the
findings that single periods of SPL
appear to be of greater interest than
multiple discontinuous periods of SPL.

Shared Parental Leave: Nine Months and Counting

Employee interest and value


Employee interest in shared
parental leave informs likely
take-up rates of the new
right as well as the value
that employees attribute
to this right. Our research
results show that there is a
high level of interest in SPL
amongst employees.

The relationship between interest and


take-up rates is important to employers
when costing any planned enhancements
to pay for those on shared parental
leave. It is also relevant to planning how
practical arrangements such as cover
might be dealt with. The governments
estimate is that between 2% and 6% of
those eligible will take up SPL. One of the
reasons for this relatively low predicted
rate is that the take-up rates for additional
paternity leave (an existing right entitling
women to transfer untaken maternity
leave to the childs father after the first
26 weeks), with which SPL is commonly
compared, have been very low.
However, many commentators believe
that the uptake of SPL is likely to be
considerably higher. Our survey further
reinforces this possibility of a higher uptake
with 63% of those surveyed saying that
they would be interested in taking up SPL.
Likely reasons for this include greater
flexibility (particularly in enabling men
to take extra leave during the first six
months of a childs life and alongside
the mother), the high level of publicity
surrounding SPL, and the objective of
increasing retention of female talent in
the workforce, which has become an
increasingly high profile boardroom issue
for employers.

Employee interest in shared parental


leave is also a strong indicator of the
perceived value to employees of the new
right. Our research shows that only 3% of
female and 5% of male employees believe
that SPL would not offer any advantages
to them. This suggests that employers
who invest in enabling employees to take
SPL and encouraging them to do so are
likely to reap the benefits in terms of
employee loyalty and retention.
The top three factors chosen by both male
and female employees combined as being
the most attractive advantages of SPL were:
1. Opportunity for father to spend
more time with the child;
2. Opportunity for childs father to share
childcare responsibilities enabling the
mother to return to work during the
childs first year; and
3. Opportunity to share childcare
responsibilities by taking leave at
the same time.
However this is not the whole story.
Whether employees who are interested in
taking up SPL actually do so will depend
on a number of factors, including financial,
personal and practical considerations.
As well as looking at levels of employee
interest, our research considered the
factors most likely to influence employees
to take or not to take SPL.

Our research results show that there is a high level


of interest in SPL amongst employees.
Interested or Very interested 63%
Not sure how interested they would be

22%

Not interested 16%

Men and women showed roughly equal levels of


interest in SPL.

63%
Levels of
interest in
SPL

62%

Shared Parental Leave: Nine Months and Counting

The question of enhanced pay


how money matters
Our research results show
that the availability of
additional pay will influence
whether employees who
are interested in taking up
SPL actually do so.

Men and women who are interested or very


interested in taking SPL said that no or insufficient
entitlement to additional pay being available to
them when taking SPL would be relevant or very
relevant to them deciding NOT to take SPL.

76% of both men and women who are interested or


very interested in taking SPL said that entitlement
to additional pay during SPL (in excess of the
statutory entitlement) would be relevant or very
relevant to them deciding to take-up SPL compared
to 66% of women and 61% of men overall.

66%
76%

Entitlement
to additional
pay during SPL
being relevant
to take-up

73%
61%

No/insufficient
additional pay
being relevant
in not taking
SPL

76%

Interested/
very interested

71%

Overall

Entitlement to statutory pay during SPL

Parents are entitled to share a


maximum total of 37 weeks of
statutory pay (currently 138.18
per week).

Mothers 39
week period
of entitlement
to statutory
maternity pay

Statutory pay for


two-week period
of compulsory
maternity leave

There is no statutory obligation to offer


any additional pay on top of this.
Total amount
of statutory pay
available to the
parents to take
during SPL

Any weeks
of statutory
maternity pay
the mother
has taken

Do take-up rates matter?


Unless employees can and do take SPL,
the value of the right will be diminished.
Some employers will want to ensure that
employees understand and are able to
exercise their rights to SPL while others
will be keen to promote the new rights
and actively endorse take-up, perhaps
through publicity and offering pay
enhancements. For the latter, low rates
of take-up are likely to be a negative
in terms of publicity, recruitment and
retention, as well as the promotion of
a diverse workforce and, in particular,
furthering the agenda of women in the
workforce, particularly in senior positions.

Shared Parental Leave: Nine Months and Counting

Entitlement of employees co-parent


to pay
Our research shows that the entitlement
of an employees co-parent to enhanced
pay during SPL will influence whether
or not the employee takes SPL and the
pattern of leave they choose. This is an
unpredictable factor, that is outside of
an employers control, but one which
will affect take-up rates. For example, a
mother who is entitled to enhanced pay
during maternity leave but not during
SPL is unlikely to sacrifice any of her paid
maternity leave to take SPL (although
she may sacrifice an unpaid part). If the
childs father is entitled to enhanced
pay during SPL, a mother is likely to be
more willing to sacrifice some maternity
leave to enable him to take SPL, and this
may include some paid maternity leave,
depending on the relative earnings of
the parents.
If at least one parent is entitled to enhanced
pay during SPL the parents are both more
likely to take SPL than if neither is entitled.
One parent can take SPL and receive
enhanced pay and their co-parent can be
working and earning or both parents could
take SPL at the same time whilst still
retaining one income. These perspectives
are backed-up by our research.

>> More than half of both male and


female employees felt that the
entitlement of their co-parent to
additional pay during SPL would
also be relevant or very relevant to
whether or not that employee (rather
than the co-parent) takes up SPL.
The reason most frequently cited
by women as being relevant or very
relevant to them taking SPL was
entitlement to additional pay during SPL.
The entitlement of the childs mother
to SPL was also the reason most cited
by men as being relevant or very
relevant to the father taking SPL.
>> 59% of women and 62% of men
said that no or insufficient pay being
available to their co-parent would
be relevant or very relevant to them
deciding NOT to take up SPL.
>> Slightly more men (62%) than women
(58%) said that no or insufficient
additional pay being available to them
during SPL would be relevant or very
relevant to them deciding NOT to take
up SPL.

Enhancing pay key considerations

Why might employers want to enhance


SPL payments, even though there is no
statutory obligation to do so?
>> Publicity/employee expectations:
Given the publicity around SPL,
it seems likely that employees are and
will be more aware of this right and
may have expectations that it will be
seen as a simple transfer of maternity
rights between parents. Employees
may therefore expect enhancements to
be available. This issue of employee
expectations, particularly the
expectations of mothers, is likely to
increase the pressure on employers
to provide the same enhancements
for SPL as for maternity leave.
>> Supporting womens careers:
SPL may be a way for mothers to
take shorter periods of leave and
reduce any risk of career interruption.
This strand of thought reflects the
increase in pressure on companies
to ensure diverse senior employee
representation, particularly at board
level, and SPL is perceived as a tool
to achieve these diversity objectives.
>> Employer branding:
Enhancements to SPL may be seen
as an employer branding issue and
present an opportunity for employers

to present themselves as an
employer of choice in family friendly
and diversity issues.
>> Possible loss of enhanced
maternity benefits:
Women who want to share some of
their maternity leave with their partner
will need to end their own maternity
leave early and either return to work
or take SPL themselves. A woman
taking a period of SPL which appears
to her to be in all respects identical
to maternity leave may in fact lose
the contractual enhancements that
her employer offers to those on
maternity leave.
>> To reduce risk of actual/perceived
discrimination issues:
There is a risk that men who feel
that they are not being treated fairly
in relation to women in the workforce
will bring discrimination claims.
There is some scope for such claims
to be successful. The extent of this
feeling and the likelihood of claims
may vary according to whether any
enhancements at all are offered.
For more information on considerations
relating to enhanced pay, including
discrimination, please see our
October briefing.

Shared Parental Leave: Nine Months and Counting

Cultural change
The availability or not of
enhanced pay is relevant
to the attractiveness of
SPL to employees and
therefore influences takeup rate. Other factors were
also cited by employees
as being relevant or very
relevant to take-up,
including how taking SPL is
perceived by the employer
and other employees.

>> 62% of both men and women said


that concerns about how SPL could be
perceived by management or damage
to their career prospects were relevant
factors that would influence them not
to take SPL. This suggests that whilst
relatively long periods of absence on
maternity leave are commonplace,
employees are concerned that taking
SPL may not be accepted in the
same way. Employers can address
this by training management about
employees entitlements and how
best to approach requests, as well as
making sure the rest of the workforce
understand what SPL is.
>> Perception is particularly important
for employers wanting to encourage
healthy take-up rates, given that 50%
of men said that other men in their
organisation opting not to take SPL
would influence them not to take SPL.

>> Challenging stereotypes of women as


principal caregivers is also likely to be
key to take-up rates. Men can only take
SPL if the childs mother agrees to
sacrifice some of her maternity leave,
and women need to feel confident
about doing this. More than 50% of
women said that a desire to take a
long period of leave to care for their
child and not to share this with the
childs father would be a relevant or
very relevant factor influencing them
not to take or share SPL. The same
is true for men in respect of caring
for a child during SPL. 55% of men
said that a personal preference not to
take SPL would be a relevant or very
relevant factor influencing them not
to take SPL.

50%

of men said that


other men in their
organisation opting
not to take SPL
would influence
them not to take SPL.

62%

62%

of both men and women said that concerns


about how SPL could be perceived by
management or damage to their career
prospects were relevant factors that would
influence them not to take SPL.

Shared Parental Leave: Nine Months and Counting

How much leave and when


the effect of patterns of leave
The new regime allows
parents significant flexibility
in the way in which leave
is taken during a childs
first year, including the
possibility of discontinuous
periods of SPL.
Our research shows that taking a single
period of SPL is likely to be more popular
than taking one or more discontinuous
periods. Men are also more likely to prefer
taking SPL during the first six months of
their childs first year. This is noteworthy
in terms of potential likely take-up, given
that under the current additional paternity
regime, men can only take leave in the
second six months of a childs life.
>> Both men and women showed a
significant preference for taking one
period of SPL rather than multiple
periods of SPL.
>> Men overwhelmingly showed a
preference to take SPL at the same
time as their co-parent rather than
independently of their co-parent.
>> Men expressed a preference to
take SPL at the same time as their
co-parent in the first six months of
the childs life.

How and when would men prefer to take SPL?


One period at the same time as co-parent 36%
22%

One period independently of co-parent 24%


16%

How much leave can be taken and when?

Parents are entitled to share a maximum of


50 weeks of leave.

Mothers
52 week period
of statutory
maternity/
adoption
leave

Two-week period
of compulsory
maternity leave

Any weeks
of statutory
maternity/
adoption leave
the mother has
taken

More than one period at the same time


as co-parent 7%
9%
Amount of leave
that can be taken
as SPL

More than one period independently


of co-parent 6%
6%

First 6 months of a childs life


Second 6 months of a childs life

SPL can be taken at any time during a childs first


year of life (other than the first two weeks after
birth when the mother must take compulsory
maternity leave). It can be taken by either parent
at different times (subject to eligibility) or by
both parents at the same time and either as one
continuous block or several discontinuous blocks.
Mothers can take SPL immediately after maternity
leave or after returning to work.
For more information on what leave can be taken
and when, see our September briefing.

Possible patterns of leave


Parents can take and share SPL in
many different ways to suit their family
circumstances. For example:
>> Only father takes SPL:
A mother could take 37 weeks of
maternity leave and pay, and the
father could take two weeks of ordinary
paternity leave, followed by two weeks
of SPL and pay at the same time as
the childs mother.
>> Maternity leave/SPL for the mother,
SPL for the father:
A mother could take 12 weeks of
maternity leave and pay, return to work
for 12 weeks and then take a further
12 weeks of SPL and pay. The childs
father could take 20 weeks of SPL,
some at the same time as the mother
and some after she has returned to
work. He would be entitled to pay for
15 weeks of SPL as this is all the pay
remaining from the total of 39 weeks
available to the parents combined.
>> Mother takes maternity leave and SPL:
A mother could take 26 weeks of
maternity pay and leave, return to
work and then take a further 13 weeks
of SPL and pay at the end of the
childs first year. The father could take
ordinary paternity leave and no SPL.

Shared Parental Leave: Nine Months and Counting

Conclusions
Employees expecting a baby or adopting
a child after 5 April 2015 will be legally
entitled to take SPL. Our research shows
that for many of these parents SPL will be
a valuable right, offering far more flexibility
to parents than current regimes. Take-up
is therefore likely to be significantly higher
than has been the case for the current
right to APL, although our research
indicates that single brief periods of SPL
are likely to be more popular with parents
than long blocks of SPL.
The issue of take-up is a big one, not
just for employees but for employers too,
many of whom are looking at ways to
actively promote their diversity agenda,
and to increase flexibility and familyfriendly working. These issues are
increasingly important to branding as well
as workforce retention and recruitment.
SPL provides employers with a new and
potentially far-reaching opportunity to
further these objectives and enabling
employees to take SPL in practice is an
important element of this.

The issue of take-up


is a big one, not just
for employees but for
employers too.

The availability of enhanced pay or


otherwise is a significant factor that will
influence the decision of both mothers
and fathers to take or not to take SPL,
and it is a key way for employers to
endorse the decision of employees who
do choose to take it. But it is not the only
factor that will contribute to employees
decisions about SPL. Assessing the
role that enhanced pay has to play in
an organisations overall approach to
SPL is therefore important. For many,
offering paid leave during SPL is a way
of demonstrating support for the new
right, and the value to employees may far
outweigh the financial cost of doing so.
With such a new type of leave, enhanced
pay should not sit alone as a motivator
and employers looking to leverage off the
benefits of the introduction of SPL need
also to ensure that employees are actively
encouraged and supported in taking SPL.

What employers should be doing now

>> Develop a policy on SPL and a series of forms


for employees to complete in order to take
advantage of SPL.
>> Consider whether to enhance pay for employees
taking SPL and, if so, by how much and for
how long as well as the interaction with current
maternity pay entitlements.

For more information on shared parental


leave, click on the monthly bulletins below.
SPL overview (Jul 2014)
Eligibility to SPL and pay (Aug 2014)
SPL leave provisions (Sept 2014)
The question of enhanced pay (Oct 2014)

>> Train management on the right to SPL and how


to approach requests for it.
>> Inform the workforce about the right to SPL
and how to take it.
>> Consider how the work of employees taking
leave will be covered.
>> Decide how requests for multiple periods of
SPL will be approached (the employer does not
have to agree to these if they are made in the
same period of leave notice, but must agree
each request made in a single notice even if
more than one notice is given by the employee).

The availability of enhanced


pay or otherwise is a
significant factor that will
influence the decision to
take SPL.

Shared Parental Leave: Nine Months and Counting

Key contacts
For more information about
the report or to discuss
the potential impact of
shared parental leave on
your business, please get
in touch with your regular
Linklaters contact or one of
the following:

Simon Kerr-Davis
Managing Associate
Tel: (+44) 20 7456 5411
simon.kerr-davies@linklaters.com

Gemma Parker
Senior PSL
Tel: +44 20 7456 5720
gemma.parker@linklaters.com

Nicola Rabson
Head of Employment & Incentives
London
Tel: (+44) 20 7456 5284
nicola.rabson@linklaters.com

linklaters.com

Linklaters LLP. All Rights reserved 2014


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7088_F/11.14

This publication is intended merely to highlight issues and not to be


comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. Should you have any questions on
issues reported here or on other areas of law, please contact one of your regular
contacts, or contact the editors.