The NCT Shared Parental Leave Q & A session with the MP, Jo Swinson, was finally going to happen this time, no date changes! I planned to leave home for a 10.45am arrival and 11am start; unfortunately, I forgot to factor in potential traffic. Well, a lot that could go wrong surely went wrong but I am glad I kept going and even more so that I made it there; albeit 20 mins before the session ended. 🙁
One of the comments that stood out most for me at the session was by a lovely lady, who made the point that Shared Parental Leave makes gender discrimination on the basis of potential Leave as a parent harder. This is because Shared Parental Leave can now be taken by men for many more months than the former Additional Paternity Leave afforded them; in fact, for longer than a woman might choose to take Maternity Leave (all within the 1 year limit).
It is a shame that some businesses do not see the opportunity that Shared Parental Leave offers them in growing committed and reliable employees with a high productivity level. I believe a lot of parents are effective and efficient employees; parenting afterall teaches to multitask, organise, plan, manage, and be resourceful in a way that nothing else does. Indeed, a lot of parents are compelled to be better time and task managers at work so that they can give adequate time to their family when they are at home. Hence, I think that the more parents feel supported by their employers, the more obliged they will feel towards them, and the more they’ll probably care about doing their best at their jobs after Shared Parental Leave.
I was thankful to be given the time to ask my questions before the session ended and the MP was gracious in her response even when I went on a bit. I found her clarification that the length of statutory pay (39 weeks) remains unchanged, helpful; I of course wish it was longer. However, as she indicated, Shared Parental Leave is a step in the right direction, not the goal. I was also thrilled to learn from Jo about how mums can benefit from both Maternity Leave and Shared Parental Leave; so, a mum can return to work for a period of time after Maternity Leave before taking her Shared Parental Leave.
In addition to these, I was glad to highlight my point about the need to create a Maternity Entitlement Information / Reference Pack, clearly differentiating between what is statutory and what is best practice, especially in relation to breastfeeding on returning to work. This pack can be given to mums-to-be by HR before they take their Maternity Leave. This way, new mums don’t have to tear their hair out trying to make sense of sometimes contradictory or / and inaccurate information on the internet; and thus, manage their expectations about their entitlements better.
Jo Swinson is so friendly and approachable, I don’t know what I expected from an MP really, but she felt like ‘one of us’ in some way; a relatively new mum and a working mum to another. It was nice to see her interacting with the attendees after the session; she seemed to relate and connect with our key concerns. As we discussed, this is an issue we all have to face, there’s no way around it; parents make a most important contribution to society by having children and they deserve society’s support with this vital task.
I left the session with the knowledge that the ramifications of Shared Parental Leave are much wider than I had been aware, and the consequences for employers, especially small businesses, and employees are far-reaching. There are of course other related issues that parents will like more help with, like having all childcare costs as a tax-free work expense, further clarification of statutory entitlements for mums breastfeeding at work and more implementation support for employers, longer leave allowance for multiple births etc. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that Parents of children born after April 5 2015 in this country are better off with this new Shared Parental Leave, which offers way more flexibility for working parents than ever before.
Thanks to the NCT for organising this session and for being so accommodating of our needs, and thanks to Jo for answering our questions. Click here for a brief video about Shared Parental Leave by Jo.
What opinion, questions or concerns do you have about the new Shared Parental Leave?
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