Gemma Parker: Is shared parental leave a good thing?

The right to shared parental leave can lead to better employee satisfaction, motivation and retention.

Parker Gemma-Linklaters-2014

The flexibility of the new right can benefit both male and female employees. Fathers can take a more prominent role in caring for their children from day one, either alongside the mother or as sole carer, and mothers will have the opportunity for more support at home or will be able to return to work earlier.

Most employees will welcome this extra flexibility, and if they don’t, traditional maternity and paternity leave is still available.

The big advantage of the new rule for employers is in the way it supports a diversity agenda by breaking down the gender stereotype of women as the primary child carer, and thereby encouraging the engagement and retention of women in the workplace.

In practice, a larger number of employees taking shorter periods of leave to care for children may be easier to manage than current lengthy periods of maternity leave. This is because a mother may be more willing to return to work early from a period of maternity leave to work on a specific project, for example, if shared parental leave can then be taken later in the year.

Employees who are too stretched by balancing work and domestic responsibilities in the early days of childcare are unlikely to be productive and the leave enables men, in particular, to take a longer period of leave when it is helpful to them. 

Employee satisfaction is key to motivation and retention, and shared parental leave can help employers achieve this.

Ultimately, the value of shared parental leave rests on employees actually taking it, and employer endorsement, including through the offer of enhanced pay, is key to this.

Gemma Parker is senior employment lawyer at Linklaters