Shared Parental Leave consultation - tell the Government what you think

(30 Posts)
MylinhMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 09-Apr-13 16:10:05

Hello

Shared parental leave - who should be eligible, and how should it work in practice?

We've been asked to take a look at the Government's consultation on shared parental leave, which will enable working parents to share leave and pay between them around the birth of the child. The consultation details administrative proposals, including:

1) Eligibility criteria for shared parental leave
2) Whether to align notice periods to inform employers of a father's intention to take paternity leave and pay
3) Notice to bring to an end maternity leave, and give rise to shared parental leave
4) How employment protections on the right to return to the same job should apply to shared parental leave
5) How notification to employers will work with the new 'fostering for adoption' arrangements

If you've experience or thoughts on how the new proposals should work, we (and no doubt the Government!) would love to hear it. You can read the full consultation here and submit your response by filling out this quick-response survey. Or, as ever, feel free to post your views in this thread.

The Government has also said it is keen to ensure that the new system works for employers, as well as employees. With this in mind, the Gov has asked employment relations experts Acas to produce a Code of Practice for employers to supplement the new policy. You can engage with this consultation (here)

Many thanks
MNHQ

janey68 Thu 11-Apr-13 07:02:37

I think shared parental leave, between mum and dad (or rhe two main carers in an adoption or same sex partnership is a wonderful idea and long overdue. I can't see how anyone can disagree really. It promotes greater equality between the parents and is acting in the best interests of the children, by enabling parents to make the choice which works for their family

I think the right to return to the same post should be retained for up to 6 months leave, and then if either partner choose longer I think it's reasonable that an employer can offer an alternative at the same salary and status.

motherofvikings Thu 11-Apr-13 12:50:55

It's a great idea that both parents can share the maternity leave.

BUT I do think if it was widely taken up it might affect the maternity packages offered in some male dominated work places. For example DH works in a very male industry. The maternity package for women is excellent (I think you get almost full salary for almost the whole year!)-because there are hardly any women employed. But the paternity package they are 'proud to offer' is the government basic of 2 weeks at statutory paternity pay only! If more men wanted to take extended maternity/ paternity leave I wonder how that would affect the standard maternity package these employers offered? confused

MissRee Thu 11-Apr-13 13:16:42

Its a great idea in theory but when I had DD last year and DP mentioned taking part of my maternity leave, his employers were most unimpressed. It was blatantly obvious that they were going to make things as difficult as possible for him and probably would have ended up with him being pushed out (its a very small family-run business) had he taken it.

lightsandshapes Thu 11-Apr-13 13:39:38

Great in theory,.... However, men can't breastfeed and since is recommended to breastfeed for a year at least, then I don't think we can bend biology too much

Jenijena Thu 11-Apr-13 14:01:19

My DH and I have just finished 11 months of leave on the current shared parental leave regulations. His employers- a well known multinational - made it incredibly difficult for him to take the past four months off, and there was an element of disbelief until the last moment.

There are a number of anomalies in the current system that need examining (e.g. By taking my 3 wks accrued annual leave at the end of my leave period, we interrupted (stopped?) the smp payments)

I went back to work at six months, and my son has been breastfed all the way through. I will read the consultation with interest.

EuroShaggleton Thu 11-Apr-13 14:34:22

Our intention is that I will take 6 months and then he will take some time or we will both try to go part time for the next few months. I'm the bigger earner out of the two of us at the moment, so shared parental leave is really helpful.

sleepyhead Thu 11-Apr-13 15:16:04

lightandshapes - bf is a red herring here. For a start, most women don't bf their babies beyond the first few weeks. Whatever your opinion on this, that is fact as things stand in the UK with mat leave for 12 months.

We are sharing parental leave with ds2. I intend to bf for a year all being well, but I will be returning to work at 6 months. Dh will take the second 6 months. We're lucky in that I work close to home so theoretically ds could be brought to me or I could go home for lunch, I'll only be returning 3 days a week as those were my hours pre-ds2, I've always found expressing easy - not all women will be so lucky, not all women will want to bf so long, not all women will be able to bf.

However, were shared parental leave not available I wouldn't be sitting at home happily bf for 12 months. Ds2 would be at nursery from 6 months and I'd be returning to work. I'm the major earner in the family at the moment so I don't have the option of longer leave this time around (took 12 months with ds1).

Many (not all) women who take less than the maximum available leave do so for reasons of family finances. Bf is neither here nor there when you have to pay the bills. Parental leave gives greater flexibility to mothers and I think it would be a mistake to object to it because of what should in an ideal world happen (if the mother wants it) in terms of infant feeding. Retention of the status quo would not lead to increased rates of bf (imo), just more babies being cared for by someone other than one of their parents.

sleepyhead Thu 11-Apr-13 15:26:57

I agree with businesses making it hard for men to take leave. I've had to tell my work that I'll be taking 12 months (while informally telling my boss that I'll almost certainly be back in 6) to ensure that if dh is mysteriously "let go" in the interim we have some wriggle room.

I don't know if there's any anti-discrimination legislation that is relevant to fathers taking parental leave - if there is then it's not clear or well communicated.

Having said that, women are already discriminated against for taking mat leave and many businesses are quite vocal about their objections to the current 12 months that women get. Hopefully once things bed down with the new legislation employers will get on board more, or at least find themselves in a situation where it's impossible to try to discriminate against such a potentially large proportion of their workforce.

Again, it's not going to be beneficial for all couples, and where the male partner is the substantially higher earner then threatened discrimination by the employer coupled with low rates of stat pay may mean that it's impossible for them to make use of it. However, that is already the case for couples where the female partner is the substantially higher earner and there are more of these than ever before.

As far as it affecting companies' maternity benefits goes, as long as a reduction in additional maternity benefits is coupled with an increase in additional paternity benefits then that seems reasonable. There will be winners and losers as in all situations.

jellybeans Thu 11-Apr-13 17:51:00

'Great in theory,.... However, men can't breastfeed and since is recommended to breastfeed for a year at least, then I don't think we can bend biology too much'

I agree with the above. I also don't think the Swedish model should be held up as the ideal especially the pushing mothers back to work part (which i am sure Clegg would be desperate for). But their model is that few babies under 16 months are in daycare, there are huge amounts of time off allowed for ill children, leave can be taken in numerous different ways much more flexibly. It's no good wanting all mums back in work while ignoring the above would also need to apply. And that is if the Swedish system actually works which many think it does not. It should be up to each family and not some sort of coercion exercise.

I worry about abusive men also. Yes it may be a minority but the Philpott case recently highlighted the fact that some abusive men force their partners back too early. Apparently he made his girlfriend/wife/ex go back after 1 month while he 'cared for the baby'. How can this be avoided? I also worry that women will lose their maternity leave in the long term once it is no longer expected mothers need time off for bonding etc.

Jenijena Thu 11-Apr-13 20:54:07

The Philpott case has shown that even without legislation allowing fathers (though I feel shame in using that word in that case) shared parental leave, abuse can take place, so I don't think bringing in legislation which will allow Dads to take a better role when they want to for good reasons should be discouraged as it might inadvertently encourage more abuse (which isn't stopped by having no legislation in this area anyway).

The fact is that some mothers have to, or want to, return work before the period of 52 weeks maternity leave is up, and sharing it with Dads enables more parental contact for the child. Which surely is a good thing.

The swap-and-change proposals listed in this consultation, whilst parent centric, are going to be a nightmare for employers. But I long for the day when 30 year old men aren't employed 'because they might go off on maternity leave' in the same way that 30 year old women aren't employed. of course this never happens in real life, does it

Could someone explain how this differs to what we already have?

One of the really good ideas in the consultation document is that fathers would be able to use some shared parental leave at the same time as the mother is off - so could take an extra few weeks in those early, hardest weeks. If we have another DC it will be by CS and being able to have my DH around for more than 2 weeks would be really useful.

OrbisNonSufficit Thu 11-Apr-13 21:36:30

I worked in Scandinavia for a while and I was incredibly impressed by how well they organise parental leave - parents can choose when to take it up to the child being age 5, parents can choose how to split it between them, and everyone in society absolutely expects men to take an extended period of time off at some point after the birth of their child. It works very well, and it means that no one is particularly disadvantaged by a 6 or 12 month hiatus mid-career, because everyone is doing it.

There is also a view (which I agree with) that 6-12 months off mid career and also part time work are stigmatised at the moment because the only people who do this on a regular basis are women starting a family. If the practice was more widespread and normalised, it wouldn't lead to discrimination and would possibly contribute to women being better represented at senior levels across society.

Question: Unless I'm being a bit dim, I can't see where in the consultation document it says what the period of shared leave will actually be... Will it still be 26 weeks paid, 26 unpaid?

Wishiwasanheiress Thu 11-Apr-13 21:54:44

1) eligibility; as stands now for mat leave. Unsure why that should alter as many of us understand it just now extends to dads too.

2) notice periods; yes align as per rules now. Gosh there's going to be so many issues here as most firms will hate men sharing it, but again, these rules are presently understood so my feeling is dont mess.

3) maternity leave I believe should essentially remain exactly as it is. 99% of men will initially feel unable to take this leave. Do not penalise women when trying to help them. Over a 10yr period u can try to change but I would bevery against snap alterations of 12 mths in future.

4) should be equal, both remain as is now under mat leave regs at minimum.

The system isn't perfect now by a long shot. That said it does sort of work. I'm very concerned that in extending this u will in fact be reducing what women receive. Frankly this idea has to remember that women will bear most of the brunt still, but that men can share successfully if supported.

Ooooh look! Flock of pigs locked loaded and ready to fly! Lets face it. Changes are likely to ruin things not improve them. I worry for my daughters and their future families and careers.....

rustybusty Thu 11-Apr-13 21:56:09

Great in theory, but until the older generation of men retire its pretty pointless. Dh works in a very male industry when he took 2 weeks paternity his bosses kept saying we didnt have it in my day, are you sure you want it etc. There was lots of pressure not to take it, bit he did. All the dads at his workplace have been through the same, and the man above dh didnt take it to prove he was committed.

If you did this as a man you wouldnt get promoted, and you would completely mess up your career.

tribpot Thu 11-Apr-13 22:08:03

Trouble is, if we waited for gender equality in the workplace 'until the older generation of men retire' we'd still be in the typing pool and expected to leave work when we got married.

I agree it will be immensely difficult to change ingrained attitudes towards men and 'juggling careers and family life' (as it is never described). But we start now and we keep going til it's done. It isn't pointless. Just very, very, very, very hard.

Discrimination legislation protects women (in theory) from the sorts of problems described above. What legislation will be used to protect men so that they can exercise their legal right to parental leave?

Dahlen Thu 11-Apr-13 23:24:42

Shared parental leave will only work if it can run alongside each other, rather than in an either parent situation. Women will always need more time than men due to the simple fact that only they can gestate, labour and breastfeed.

If we are going to remove the stigma attached with having children that affects the career chances of so many women, employers need to know that men will take this time off just as much as women.

I'd like to see the first month for both parents automatically. If men are around during those first weeks, they are far more likely to become primary carers or joint carers.

After that, it can be a case of mum or dad.

HellesBelles396 Fri 12-Apr-13 08:09:20

maternity leave wasn't originally intended for bf or bonding but to allow the mother's body time to revrt to its pre-pg state.

there's a higher chance of haemorrhage during the first however many months after birth and, as many of us know, the effects on our hormone systems are huge.

BoffinMum Fri 12-Apr-13 08:17:46

Someone needs to make sure the link between leave, physical recovery and bf are explicitly dealt with. It' s not a holiday, it's an accommodation for putting your body through one of the most extreme things possible.

BoffinMum Fri 12-Apr-13 08:20:56

I am inclined to think that 4 weeks for both parents at full pay, followed by discretion in how families choose to take it up after that, might be the way forward.

droid400004 Fri 12-Apr-13 08:50:09

I agree with BoffinMum. Even if DH was at home for 2 extra weeks unpaid (so 4 in total), that help in the first few weeks is essential. I was a wreck when DH went back to work when our DS was 2 weeks old. We lived far from family, and in a new community where we didn't really know anyone. DS hit a round-the-clock feeding period in the third week, combined with my baby blues, and a difficult labour. It was a nightmare, easily the worst week or two of my life.

marzipananimal Fri 12-Apr-13 08:51:09

Women are protected against discrimination on the basis of maternity by sex discrimination law. How will men be protected from paternity discrimination and will the change affect the ability of women to be protected by sex discrimination legislation?

JassyRadlett Fri 12-Apr-13 08:59:34

I have newfound appreciation for my husband's employers. He took 4 months after I went back to work when DS was 7 months old. His work were initially a bit surprised - he would have been one if the first to do it - but ultimately supportive and he returned to work straight into a temporary promotion covering maternity leave. He now works slightly compressed hours, as do I.

Probably helps that his boss is a woman with small kids but he now gets other men sent to talk to him from across his department for advice on their options.

He did get some negative comments from colleagues - both men and women - but not as much as expected.

If he hadn't taken the leave, DS would have been in nursery at 7 months as I'm our main breadwinner.

marzipananimal Fri 12-Apr-13 09:00:44

Currently a woman whose husband is not working can take mat leave, but I assume the reverse doesn't apply. Are we happy with this inequality?

Trills Fri 12-Apr-13 10:04:49

I am inclined to think that 4 weeks for both parents at full pay, followed by discretion in how families choose to take it up after that, might be the way forward.

I agree with Boff here, and with Dahlen saying

If men are around during those first weeks, they are far more likely to become primary carers or joint carers.

lightsandshapes Fri 12-Apr-13 13:35:40

I think we need to protect women from being forced back to work too early. Already we are asked to be it al and do it all, however we still do disproportionately more at home in terms of cleaning, cooking, night waking, and the lot. Men need to change as much as women have for thus to work. I don't feel, as a whole, they have so far. A recipe for female exhaustion IMHO sad

slightlysoupstained Fri 12-Apr-13 15:40:44

lightsandshapes the risk is that "protecting" women from being forced back to work too early is also preventing men from getting involved as equal parents, and basically treating women as if they are not adults who can assert themselves, but little children who need protection at the cost of some freedom of choice.

I agree with Boff's suggestion, 4 weeks for both parents at full pay, followed by discretion in how families choose to take it up after that.

janey68 Fri 12-Apr-13 17:11:40

I think there are various potential risks. It's not just about dads 'forcing' mums back to work- there is a risk that some mothers might see
It as a threat to their entitlement and discourage dad from having his turn. The bf issue is a red herring I believe. If mothers choose to bf for a year or more they will do it, and if they want to put them on a bottle from day 1 they'll do it. I returned to work much earlier than a year and bf until my kids were 2. The central issue here should be the Children, and it's brilliant for it to be possible for dads to be more involved .

janey68 Fri 12-Apr-13 18:35:39

I meant to add, I think it would be really wrong to base policy on what the risks might be in the worst case scenario, ie: it would be awful to say we shouldn't have shared leave because some dads might push women back to work too soon, or some mums might be possessive about the leave and not let dad get a look in
For a start, if a relationship is bad it's going to be bad anyway, not because of legislation (as others have pointed out in the philpott example)
Policy should be based on what is equitable and in the best interests of most people. If families want mum to take the entire 12 months leave before returning to work, they still have that option. If they want to split it equally between the two parents, they have that option. This is about broadening choices. That's a good thing for children, mums and dads.

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