“The rules have been designed to be as straightforward for employers and parents as possible, and are no more complex than the current maternity leave laws...” . The Minister for Employment Relations (Jo Swinson MP).
“Straightforward – devoid of guile or complexity.” The Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1972).
The government fondly believes it has designed the regulations to place primary operational responsibility with parents. But if parents make complicated or ill prepared requests for shared leave it will of course be down to HR to pick up the pieces. For the time being my guidance is this:
-Talk about it. Encourage parents-to-be to talk to you about their plans as early as possible and approach the topic collaboratively.
-Think about it. Can the business accommodate requests for several short absences in place of one long absence and if not, why not? Are there sound business reasons for an objection? Will they stand scrutiny or are they a desperate rearguard action against social change?
-Think about creating a policy and model forms for the provision of information and notice. Most of us would say this isn’t our function and we’d be right but practical guidance in the background will avoid a lot of future difficulties.
-Take care to avoid discrimination traps. Stereotypical views of a fathers role as bread winner are more dangerous than ever and if you enhance maternity pay, what are you doing about ShPP? If you don’t enhance it, can you objectively justify the enhanced maternity pay and if so, how?
-Have another G & T and push on!
It remains to be seen if ShPL will take off. I’m hearing anecdotal evidence that the take-up in London is likely to be higher than in the rest of the country where the gender pay gap is (by and large) wider. Incidentally that gap is currently 9.4%, the lowest it’s ever been but for couples on average earnings that’s still a sizeable difference especially when one’s facing the substantial hike in expenditure and the change in spending patterns that babies bring.