Despite the number of parents using Shared Parental Leave (SPL) increasing last year, only 2 per cent of couples used it.
This was discovered by commercial law firm EMW, using HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) figures. Even though, the number of parents using SPL increased by 23 percentage points, only 13,100 couples applied to the scheme. Almost 650,000 women claimed maternity pay last year, meaning only 2 per cent of eligible couples used SPL.
SPL allows couples with newborn babies to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory shared parental pay between them. With a maximum rate of £151.20 per week. EMW described the participation of SPL to be “exceptionally low” even though it was introduced in 2015.
The rate of pay is believed to be the main reason why there has been such a low use of the scheme as EMW explained that “few couples are willing to see their primary earner’s income fall to little more than £600 a month”.
If SPL provided stronger financial assistance, EMW believes it could help put an end to the gender pay gap. As it would no longer mean that the woman would have to take on the majority of childcare duties, while fathers remained at work.
Jon Taylor, principal at EMW, said:
For many, seeing their pay cut to £150 a week is unpalatable, if not impossible in the months after having a baby.
Jane van Zyl, chief executive of Working Families, said:
The case for improving leave entitlements for fathers and partners is now more urgent than ever, and ensuring paternity and shared parental leave is properly paid, and introducing a period on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, is crucial to maximising take-up.
In the shorter term, we’re very concerned that fathers and partners that have lost their job, have just started a new job or become self-employed during the current pandemic will miss out on any paid leave at all during their new child’s first year. We’re calling for the urgent introduction of a day-one right to paternity leave, and a paternity allowance and adoption allowance equivalent to maternity allowance, to ensure new fathers and partners don’t miss out.