Cross-party support for improved shared parental leave

Forty-six MPs from all sides of the House of Commons have signed a letter to the Minister for Women and Equalities expressing concern about the current terms of shared parental leave.

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As Relocate reported back in December, a CIPD study Labour Market Outlook: Focus on Working Parents found just 5 per cent of new fathers and 8 per cent of new mothers opted to take up their right to SPL since its introduction in April 2015.The professional body for HR and people development acknowledged then that these figures are broadly in line with government expectations. However, it called for a further step-change from government and employers in the support they offer employees with caring responsibilities.

Fathers want more involvement in raising families

Motherhood is a key factor in the persistent gender pay gap and the continued lack of female representation at senior leadership level. Research published in January by Working Families and reported by Relocate also highlighted the strong demand for fathers to be more involved with raising their families.Commenting on the campaigning charity’s report at its launch, Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said: “A game-changing first step would be government creating a new, properly paid, extended period of paternity leave – sending clear signal that government recognises the aspirations of modern fathers and is serious about tackling the motherhood penalty that blights the working lives of so many women.”

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Non-transferable SPL

This week’s letter, organised by David Lammy MP, echoes this call. Its signatories are "extremely concerned about the low take-up of SPL." They are also particularly worried about the "gendered working culture" that means many men are worried that taking leave "will be viewed negatively" and "impact on their career." They are asking the government to outline their plans for improving take up of SPL.Suggesting low levels of pay for paternity and SPL are significant barriers to fathers taking up parental leave, the signatories make the case for introducing non-transferable leave, bringing the UK into line with other OECD countries, including Iceland, Norway, Portugal and Sweden.“A statutory entitlement to three months non-transferable paid parental leave for second parents, at the same rate as maternity pay, as well as equalisation of payments for the first four week of maternity and paternity pay would be a significant step forwards both in practical terms and in shifting cultural attitudes,” suggests David Lammy in the letter to Justine Greening, Minister for Women and Equalities.This latest addition to the ongoing debate about gender equality at work and the role of parenthood and financial disincentives follows the Trades Union Congress’ report last week comparing maternity pay levels across the EU. It found that the UK had among the lowest benefits.For its part, the TUC is calling for an increase in statutory maternity pay (SMP) and Maternity Allowance to match the minimum wage, as well as shared parental pay and paternity pay. It would also like to see more flexible shared parental leave.

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