Slow take-up of shared parental leave

family law

The number of couples who have taken ‘shared parental leave’ remains very low, official figures suggest.

The scheme allows couples to share a year’s worth of leave following the birth of a child. It was introduced to reduce the damage done to mothers’ careers and allow fathers to be more involved with their children.

New data from HM Revenue and Customs has revealed that out of an estimated 285,000 working couples eligible for such leave, only 3,000 took it in the first quarter of this year. This represents just four per cent.

However, the government originally thought that the rate of take-up would be between two and eight per cent, so the new figure falls within that margin. By contrast, earlier this year working family organisation My Family Care claimed only one per cent of fathers had taken advantage of the scheme.

Shared parental leave is not as popular as maternity and paternity leave. During the first three months of 2013/14, which is the latest available data, around 155,000 mothers took maternity leave. During the same period an estimated 52,000 fathers took paternity leave.

The scheme was introduced by then Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, who lost her seat at last year’s general election. She called the latest report “misleading” and claimed the government “expected between 5,700 and 22,600 couples to use shared parental leave in year one”. So having around 3,000 do so in the first three months “suggests take-up of shared parental leave is well on track”, she explained.

Photo by Christian Scheja via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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