Until last year, taking paid time off work to look after a new baby rested very much on the mother’s shoulders. But since the introduction of shared parental leave (SPL) in April 2015, families now have the option to split the childcare during their baby’s first year.
So what exactly is shared parental leave? Who is eligible? And is this really the catalyst for a new age of family equality?
Jamie Grill via Getty Images
How does it work?
Previously, men were only entitled to two weeks of paternity leave, compared to a woman’s 52 weeks. Under the new legislation, employed mums will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave, including 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance (if eligible) but after the first two weeks of compulsory maternity leave, they can choose to share the remaining 50 weeks of leave with their partner.
This can be taken doubled up or at different times – with the flexibility to take it in up to three blocks of at least a week each. For instance, both of you could choose to take leave together during those early daunting weeks when neither of you has a clue what the hell is going on.
Or, if one of you has a big work project slap bang in the middle of the year, you can go back to work, make some important decisions, then return to the world of naps, nappies and nursery rhymes when the job is done.
In the first two weeks partners can still take two weeks’ paternity leave after the birth and SPL will begin after this.
What are the benefits of SPL?
The aim of shared parental leave is to address the current gender imbalance: to help women to progress in their careers and enable men to take a more hands-on role at home. Mums now have more choice about when they return to work and fathers have got the opportunity to bond with their children during those crucial early months of development.
This also means that mothers, as well as fathers, will be able to maintain stronger links to the workplace during the first year of their child’s life, making it…