Employers floundering on SPL decisions

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Days before shared parental leave (SPL) comes into effect, research suggests the majority of employers will not be enhancing shared parental pay above the statutory minimum, though some have still not decided their approach.

In a survey of 575 organisations by XpertHr, two-thirds of organisations currently enhance maternity pay. One in five respondents said they plan to enhance shared parental pay with a further one in five undecided.

Many employers are nervous about the cost implications of enhancing shared parental pay as it is not known how many employees will take up the right to share leave after the birth of adoption of their child. Four-fifths of organisations surveyed by XpertHR say they do not have a sense of the number of employees that may take shared parental leave over the next 12 months.

There are also operational implications. Speaking to Flexible Boss last month, Alison Hughes, head of HR policy and diversity at energy provider Centrica, said the company’s decision to implement statutory pay rates has been based on the impact that high take-up levels of SPL could have on operations, rather than the cost of offering enhanced pay.

“If you look at our demographic, particularly in the British Gas part of the business, we’ve got a population of around 10,000 engineers – 98% male and 2% female,” explains Hughes. “We know in the last 12 months we had about 800 new dads. If people did take up the leave, irrespective of whether we were enhancing pay or not, we would have a big operational problem.”

Meanwhile computer company Dell is one employer that has yet to make an announcement to staff on its policy. It hopes to do so by the end of April. “We haven’t made our decision on it yet,” says HR consultant Yvonne Stewart, Dell UK. She says the company is heavily invested in being a flexible employer. “We have been doing focus groups and taking advice. We have to make sure that the policy works for Dell. We don’t have ‘best practice’ [yet on SPL], we’re setting the best practice.”

Xpert HR says some employers are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach on SPL and more than two-fifths have so far taken no action to raise awareness of the new right. It found that just over a quarter of employers have communicated their policy to all employees, rising to one in three public-sector organisations. A further one in five employers has provided line managers with training or guidelines on shared parental leave, rising to one in four among organisations with 1,000-plus employees.

However, employers have little confidence in line managers when it comes to shared parental leave. Only 7.1% agreed or strongly agreed that their line managers demonstrate a good level of comprehension of shared parental leave arrangements, reflecting the complexity of the legislation.

Some small businesses are concerned that they could face indirect discrimination claims if they continue to enhance maternity pay but do not enhance shared parental pay.

One respondent says: “As we enhance maternity pay quite significantly, we are now faced with the challenge of determining whether enhancing both maternity pay and shared parental pay will be affordable.”

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kit4na/

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