New parental leave legislation coming into effect in April 2015 will give parents the option of sharing leave over the course of a year, following the birth or adoption of a child. Leave can be applied for from December 1st 2014, but it cannot be taken until April 2015.
Campaigners are hoping these new proposals will encourage more men to share childcare. More generous legislation is already in place in Iceland where around 90% of fathers take parental leave. There mothers and fathers are entitled to three months’ non-transferable leave each, plus three months extra to share. This makes the changes to UK legislation look relatively modest. Reports in today’s newspapers suggest that fathers may be reluctant to take up the opportunity for shared parental leave: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/relationships/fatherhood/11264226/Shared-parental-leave-baby-care-is-fun-but-its-not-what-fathers-do.html .
When CareerBalance coaches work with mothers seeking to return to work after an extended break to have children, we often find that clients need help and support to identify their workplace skills and to re-build their confidence. Extended periods of time away from the workplace, characterised by sleep deprivation and the need to adjust to an entirely new role can mean that working mothers find it very difficult to identify with their work-self again. Shorter periods of maternity leave interspersed with short periods of time in the workplace are likely to help make the transition back to work an easier adjustment. Furthermore, sharing the experience of juggling work and childcare with fathers allows parents the opportunity to intersperse time at home with time at work and to support each other during what is a profound change in life.
Only time will tell if this change in the UK law will bring about a positive shift in culture.