Shared parental leave -®
Is shared parental leave the answer?
UK's new law kicks in
With Tony Abbott's extended Paid Parental Leave policy proposal (six months of paid parental leave at the person's normal wage) off the table due to "the state of the nation's finances", Australia is now in a bit of a quandary as to what to do about the issue of parental leave.

What's best for mother, father, children and of course, business? At the end of last year, new rights to allow parents to share leave following the birth or adoption of their child became law in the UK. This new ruling means that couples with babies due, or children matched or placed for adoption, after 5 April 2015 will be able to share leave.

So is this an idea we should be adopting here?

The outline

After an initial two weeks, up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared. Parents will also be able to take time off at the same time to look after a newborn.

The new ruling means that in the UK around 285,000 working couples are thought to be eligible to share leave. The pattern of leave must be agreed between the employee and employer with eight weeks' notice, but the Government has allowed individual employers to decide whether to extend enhanced maternity pay to all new parents taking shared parental leave.

The changes in how maternity leave can be used is intended to "kick start a culture change in workplaces where fathers feel more confident in taking time off for childcare" according to Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson.

She said that the new Shared Parental Leave rules will give real choice to parents:

"We all know that every family has its own unique set of circumstances, and Shared Parental Leave reflects that reality", she said.

This new ruling finally dispels the arcane assumptions that the bulk of childcare responsibilities should be done by mums, with old maternity leave laws failing to recognise that families have had very limited options when it comes to juggling the demands of work with the arrival of a new baby. Swinson said it is now a vitally important role that dads and partners have to play.

Mothers and adopters will be able to choose when they return to work and fathers and partners will be able to spend more time bonding with their children during the precious early stages of their development.

Under the new rules, mums will still take at least 2 weeks of maternity leave immediately after birth, but after that working couples have the opportunity to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.

The increased flexibility that Shared Parental Leave will create will be good for families, good for business and good for the economy. Businesses already recognise that employees are more productive and motivated when given the opportunity to work flexibly, and Shared Parental Leave will help employers to retain committed and knowledgeable staff.

It's important that business realise that shared parental leave is also in their interest. According to ACAS (the UK's Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), employers should recognise that they can retain talented staff by offering a flexible approach to work and a healthy work life balance can help business success and growth.

ACAS Chair Sir Brendan Barber said that "Shared Parental Leave will enable working parents to share maternity or adoption leave to allow both parents greater involvement with their child's first year, whilst employers have the potential to remain productive by agreeing new arrangements that work for their organisations".

This is certainly a huge step forward for the UK in terms of recognising the reality of most couples' financial and employment circumstances. The fact is that most families now rely on dual incomes to survive. It's becoming more frequent that the female is the higher salary earner. Women can no longer afford to take 6-12 months out of their careers, whether they'd like to or not, so both parents have to take equal share of parenting duties.

The new ruling is an incredibly simply way of acknowledging, accepting and dealing with our 21st century circumstances.

Join our discussion:

Is this an idea we should be adopting here?
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