How to make Shared Parental Leave work for your family

Under new rules, the parents of children born or adopted after 5 April 2015 will be entitled to Shared Parental Leave. But what does this mean for your family, and how can you make it work for you?

Tracey Eker, CEO of Flexiworkforce, explains how Shared Parental Leave will work, and how you can make the most of its benefits for your family.

How does Shared Parental Leave work?

This month Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay will come into force, meaning that the parents of babies born after 5 April 2015 (and those who adopt after this date) will be permitted to share parental leave.

According to government report, about 285,000 working couples will be eligible to share leave under the new rules, announced last year. The new rues mean that:

  • Shared Parental Leave will enable parents to suggest a flexible pattern of leave to their employer.
  • Workers will have the right to take Shared Parental Leave in up to three separate blocks, although their employer 
can agree to more.
  • They may also split each block into several shorter periods of work and leave.
  • Parents can also take time off at the same time to look after a newborn.

How can you apply for Shared Parental Leave?

The introduction of Shared Parental Leave is evidence of the increasing demand for agility in the UK workforce, and for employers to be more in touch with the needs of their employees.

If you apply for Shared Parental Leave, the pattern of leave must be agreed between you and your employer with eight weeks’ notice. (ACAS has outlined a guide to the rules, stating that employers and employees should be aware of the new rights.)

Childcare can now be shared more equally

Unlike the flexible working legislation introduced in June 2014 (in which workers only have the right to have their request properly considered) shared parental leave gives permanent employees – both mums and dads – the right to take the leave if they wish in the same way as maternity leave.

Many people hope that the arrival of Shared Parental Leave will have a positive effect on workplace inequality, including the gender pay gap; throughout the years, men have been able to advance their careers without the interruption of childcare responsibilities. But now, the move towards Shared Parental Leave allows childcare to be split more equally.

And with the option of a more equal split of parental leave, the prospect of taking a considerable career break on maternity leave, and the struggle to re-enter the workforce afterwards, may be less challenging for women.

How to make Shared Parental Leave work for your family

So how can you make Shared Parental Leave work for YOUR family? Here are some ideas.

Talk about it!

When planning for your family’s future, communication is key. It’s extremely important that both you and your partner have the same expectations, and are aware of the different options that are available. Do some serious research to come up with a solution that will fit both of your needs.

Make sure that your employer is aware of Shared Parental Leave

As we mentioned earlier, ACAS has outlined a guide to the rules, saying that employers and employees should be aware of the new rights.

However, your employer may be unaware of the change in legislation. So be open and upfront about your needs as early as possible, so your employer can help you make early plans before you submit your leave booking.

Make the most of your time off

While the first few weeks will be hard, make time to really enjoy the quality time you spend with your new baby. Organise some fun days out that will get you out of the house and help you feel stimulated (keeping baby brain at bay!).

Join local baby groups too, and get to know other new mums. It may take a little time, but you should be able to find women you connect with beyond the shared experience of being a mum, and forge friendships that stop you feeling lonely, and help you to navigate and enjoy your early weeks and months of motherhood.


What happens after Shared Parental Leave?

You may have an idea about what you plan to do after your leave period, but your time off may change your mind. If you are planning on returning to you current role, explore the options that are available to you.

If you are planning on re-entering the workforce, you may want to consider working on a flexible basis. (If so, you’ll find plenty of flexible jobs on Flexiworkforce.) But above all, do your research and choose the best option for you and your family.

Want to read more about maternity leave?

You’ll find more advice on maternity leave and working in these articles:

Tracey Eker is the CEO of Flexiworkforce, the only UK-wide job site truly specialising in flexible working.