Share in the care

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Share in the care

I’m actually in quite a unique position. My husband was recently one of the very few who took up the Governments Shared Parental leave scheme. He was the first person in his company who employ thousands of people to take it. The reason is not due to lack to of awareness but due to when prospective parents enquired about it and found out how much they would be dropping every month they realised the sums simply didn’t add up.

Shared parental leave was first introduced in 2015 in an (somewhat half-hearted) attempt to even up the stakes between men and women when it comes to having a family. Take up is thought to be as low as 2% according to the department of business and when you look at it it’s really no wonder. In a nutshell: Both parents can choose to split the statutory paid maternity leave, bar two weeks that the baby’s birth mother must take, so 37 weeks of standard paid leave and a further 13 weeks of unpaid leave between both parents. Statutory maternity pay is paid at £145.18 per week or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. Meaning that, every month take home pay for the full time carer of our Son ends up at around £650 per month.

The average UK salary is £27,600 which would work out at around £2,300 every month. Even if you’re earning the average salary and many are not, being on shared parental leave or maternity pay is a huge strain on family finances. The choice on who looks after the new baby is often made based on who’s salary you can least afford to lose out on for 9 months.  The #Genderpaygap is still very real and so more often than not the father earns more. The family simply can’t afford to survive on the mothers lower salary, making it just unworkable for many families and so continues the endless cycle.

My husband was able to take 4 months off in the end and was met by a mixture of responses from colleagues, his HR department, friends and family. Nearly all were positive, some a bit condescending, some jealous of the opportunity, and most were surprised and admiration was the emotion which took me aback the most. When I announced my pregnancy’s and the maternity leave that I planned on taking admiration was the one emotion that was *cough* distinctly lacking shall we say?! It’s great (although financially crippling for both of us) we were able to share in the care of our baby in the first 9 months and only right considering we’re both jointly responsible for bringing up our children together. I really didn’t expect to be told ‘How lucky I am to have a good hands on husband’ and I’m sure he didn’t expect to be treated as though  him taking the time off was such a novel idea and akin to a nice extended holiday (anyone who has been sole in charge of a small baby for any amount of time can lmfao here!)

I get the difference between our two circumstances and why everyone was so surprised he was sharing leave but really wish that there wasn’t one. If it was completely normal and accepted by employers that both parents to take time off to help care for a new addition it would benefit everyone concerned. Employers, Employees and the baby.

A way needs to be found to really even up the stakes when it comes to parental leave. The current scheme is clearly not working or more people would be taking advantage of it. What would work better?

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Christie Haggis

Christie Haggis

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Works Diverse Ltd is a company based in the UK providing a certification service for businesses to show their commitment to a fairer, more equal and diverse workplace and business.

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