Maternity Action recommends reforming Shared Parental Leave (SPL) as it views the current scheme as not fit for purpose.

Only 3.6 per cent of eligible fathers have used the scheme - far below the Government’s target of 25 per cent.

The current scheme

Under the SPL scheme, new mothers are legally required to take the first two weeks of maternity leave but can then exchange their statutory maternity leave for SPL. This involves transferring up to 50 weeks of that leave (up to 37 weeks of it being paid) to the father or the other second parent.

Maternity Action reports the scheme’s very low take-up is due to its transferable nature, administrative complexity and restrictive eligibility criteria.

The report claims the Government’s promised Employment Bill provides a key opportunity to improve the current scheme.

What does Maternity Action propose?

Maternity Action propose a new ‘6+6+6’ model to replace the existing schemes. The proposed model consists of individual and non-transferable rights to enhanced leave for each parent including six months of paid maternity leave reserved for the mother, and a further six months of non-transferable parental leave for each parent. The six months of parental leave could be taken simultaneously or separately by the two parents, all in one go or in smaller blocks of weeks or months up to 18 months after the birth.

The report also recommends that:

the individual and non-transferable rights should be available to all working parents from the first day of their employment

the right to return to the same job at the end of any period of leave should be strengthened

the statutory rate of pay should be increased to at least the national minimum wage level, increased to real living wage levels over time and then eventually to wage replacement levels

It seems unlikely the proposals will be implemented, but they provide a useful insight into how critics view the current SPL arrangements and what alternatives might look like.