Since April 2015, new legislation has come into force in the UK covering parental leave. Maternity leave is no longer exclusively reserved for the mother but can instead be shared between the two parents.
It is also possible to break up this ‘Shared Parental Leave’ into chunks, allowing you and your partner to share childcare responsibilities over the course of a year.
Ingrid Armstead, Group HR Director, Robert Walters, comments, “Under the new legislation, women can return to work earlier after having a child while still knowing that their partner is at home to care for their child. Splitting Shared Parental Leave into chunks can also allow returning parents to alternate between being at home with their child and returning to work week-to-week or month-to-month. This has the potential to better support parents returning to the workplace.”
When an employee returns to work, they also have the option to request flexible working arrangements from their employer. While employers do have a right to refuse an employee’s request, they need to provide a valid business reason for doing so and they are required to give the employee formal feedback.
This flexible work could take the form of job sharing, shift work, working from home or part-time work. Before applying, the employee should consider the potential impact their proposed working pattern may have on their team or department, the wider business and how this might be addressed. It is important for managers to carefully consider the request and explore ways for the business to accommodate by suggesting alternatives, should the original request not be feasible.
While employers do have a right to refuse an employee’s request, they need to provide a valid business reason for doing so and they are required to give the employee formal feedback.
Ingrid Armstead goes on to say, “Parental policies have come a long way and shared parental leave is an important step towards balancing child care arrangements, allowing both parents to participate in the up-bringing of their child without sacrificing career progression and aspirations. Having flexible policies facilitates retention of talent that might otherwise be held back or lost, thereby helping to build a pipeline of women looking to grow their careers and progress into senior positions. Shared Parental Leave now allows parents to balance childcare and work between them during the first few months with a new baby, and employers are becoming steadily more open to flexible working arrangements as they are shown to be effective.”
Ingrid Armstead is Group HR Director at Robert Walters and is based in our head office in London.