At the beginning of the year I shared my views on the immediate priorities for the Civil Service. One of those was to increase opportunities for our workforce through initiatives such as the Talent Action Plan (TAP).
As set out there, the Civil Service introduced shared parental leave provision from 5 April, demonstrating a commitment to working parents by offering an occupational rate of pay for eligible employees.
The great thing about shared parental leave is that it gives parents real flexibility in how they care for their child in their first year. It also applies in the same way to couples adopting a child and those in a surrogacy arrangement. Parents will be able to make decisions about how they split the leave between them while still retaining a strong link with the labour market.
And to encourage uptake by eligible employees, the approach for Civil Service employees goes even further than the statutory minimum. Unlike many other employers, we have opted to offer the same level of enhanced pay during shared parental leave to both parents making it a tremendous step forward.
How it works in practice
Parents now have the right, under the Children and Families Act 2014, to share 52 weeks of leave. There is a legal entitlement to statutory pay of £139.58 per week for 39 of these weeks. The remaining 13 weeks are unpaid. All UK employees are entitled to this (not just civil servants).
Parents will tell their respective employers how and when they would like to share the leave and pay between them within their overall statutory joint entitlement. They can also ask to take leave at the same time or at any point during the year and not necessarily in one continuous block.
The Civil Service already offers full pay to eligible employees on maternity or adoption leave, by topping up the statutory rate of pay. The same is now offered to eligible employees on shared parental leave. To make sure our approach is fair; two parents that opt to take shared parental leave will not receive more full pay than those who decide to remain on paid maternity or adoption leave. For most civil servants this equates to 26 weeks of full pay, even if their partner is not a civil servant.
Why we have taken this approach
We are supporting the overall aim of shared parental leave; making it a positive proposition for existing staff and helping the Civil Service retain qualified and talented employees. I am really hopeful that this will aid recruitment, attracting candidates keen to make best use of our total reward package.
Introducing shared parental leave in this way sends a strong signal about the culture we want to set for working parents in the Civil Service, making childcare a parental issue rather than just one for women.
I believe our approach will also help to reduce the gender bias that currently impacts on women’s careers, help equalise career progression opportunities and contribute to a reduction to the gender pay gap. It will also increase fathers’ involvement at the very early stages following birth or adoption, which research shows, leads to positive outcomes for children and families.
If you are a prospective parent and think you might be interested in taking shared parental leave or a line manager who might be dealing with applications from staff, I would really encourage you to have a look at your department’s policy. I am also really pleased to tell you about a forthcoming toolkit that supports employees and managers throughout other periods of family related leave. I am personally committed to ensuring our colleagues can combine family life with their personal and career development opportunities and I am keen to hear your experiences of making this happen.
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