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Shared parental leave cheered in principle, but feared in practice

Shared parental leave (SPL) is getting the thumbs up from HR departments across the country - in principle. But how it will be in practice is still raising concerns.

This is according to a survey from Xpert HR, which found that almost three quarters of employers were in favour of SPL.

Respondents approved of its fairness and the way it recognised that childcare was a shared responsibility. Some said that they hoped SPL would lessen the potential negative impact that child rearing can have on womens careers.

But even its supporters were concerned about how it would work in practice, especially for 'unpredictable' or 'short blocks of leave'.

Likely take-up of SPL

One of the uncertainties for employers of SPL, before its implementation in April 2015, is how many people will seek to use it.

Government estimates put the figure at between 2 and 8 per cent. Experts predict that take-up is likely to be low unless employers offer enhanced shared parental pay and benefits alongside the new provision.

Some legal experts have raised a concern that employers may face discrimination claims if they do not extend enhanced contractual maternity pay provisions to men on shared parental leave. Although not yet tested in legal terms, it is not thought that contractual Shared Parental Leave provisions have to mirror contractual maternity terms. Acas guidance is that any contractual enhancements within Shared Parental Leave should apply equally to men and women.

Additional paternity leave, introduced in 2010, has only been taken up in a quarter of organisations surveyed.

Campaigners said that organisations can mark themselves out as innovative family-friendly places by offering enhanced paternity benefits. Such moves are likely to boost employee engagement and improve satisfaction with work-life balance.

Acas publications and services

Acas experts can visit your organisation and help you develop effective policies for Parents and carers: how Acas can help in your workplace.

Acas training on Maternity, paternity and adoption will keep you up to speed with all the changes surrounding shared parental leave, as well improve your understanding of the law in the way it relates to other family-relevant employment legislation.

For free, impartial advice on any employment relations issue, call the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100, or consult Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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