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Tom Neil: creating Acas' Shared Parental Leave good practice guide

Friday 07 November 2014

Tom Neil, Guidance Writer at Acas, talks about new Shared Parental Leave legislation and deciphering what it means for employers and employees.

Tom Neil Tom Neil

Tom Neil is a Guidance Writer at Acas and worked on developing pdf icon Shared Parental Leave: a good practice guide for employers and employees [538kb].


The UK Government has previously estimated that between 2-8% of expectant parents will use the new Shared Parental Leave entitlement in 2015-16. This percentage may seem small, and actual take up may exceed this, but whatever the volume, it is important that information on this new area of policy is clear and accessible.

This is quite a challenge with shared parental leave (SPL) since it represents a brand new concept and, what's more, it's designed to challenge some of society's deep rooted cultural and social norms about caring roles. We can assume that such a shift will take time.

So what's it all about? The aim of Shared Parental Leave is to move away from an assumption that mothers will automatically be the parent taking leave from work in order to take on the caring role. Shared Parental Leave allows both parents to decide what care arrangements suit their circumstances best. Just how quickly families begin to actively think about dividing their caring responsibilities is going to be interesting to see, but given these valuable new flexibilities, it's difficult to see it as anything other than a reasonable option to consider.

One of the main concerns regarding the introduction of Shared Parental Leave has been its perceived complexity. I must admit that after my first reading of the regulations I was left searching for some aspirin. However, a similar headache was felt the first time I read the maternity regulations and really Shared Parental Leave is no more complex. 

The obvious advantage to learning about maternity rights in the current environment is the availability of guides and further information. I am therefore pleased that the Acas good practice guide on Shared Parental Leave is now available and can help to dispel some of the concerns raised so far.

The guide was developed in consultation with a whole host of employers, legal firms, family groups and trade unions including BIS, EEF, Working Families and the TUC. We decided early on that seeking views from across the employment arena was going to be beneficial in ensuring the guidance was practical and realistic from the perspective of both employers and employees.

Considering the disparate groups involved in our consultation, one concern was whether consensus could actually be reached. What was a surprise therefore was the level of harmony in the opinions expressed. Of course the different contributors came to the table with different agendas, but there was a good degree of agreement on what a sensible approach to Shared Parental Leave would look like. Informed by this a workable four step process was constructed that operates equally for employers and employees and so far feedback to the guide has been very positive.

Like any new employment right, there is the risk that the introduction of Shared Parental Leave might lead to conflict at work, if not handled well. However, if employees and employers approach Shared Parental Leave in a constructive and open manner, with early discussions to avoid misunderstandings and surprises, then the working relationship should remain positive and could in fact become even stronger.

Shared parental leave information from Acas

Shared parental leave and pay

pdf icon Shared Parental Leave: a good practice guide for employers and employees [538kb]

Read other blogs on shared parental leave

Ruth Hunt: Good employers value difference

Verity O'Keefe: Shared parental leave - tackling the challenges and understanding the business benefits

Jo Swinson: Shared Parental Leave will help build a modern fairer workplace

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