Today the long-awaited Shared Parental Leave comes into force. The aim of the policy is to give parents greater flexibility in sharing the care of their child in the 12 months following their birth or adoption. Yet many parents remain confused about what the  new legislation really means for their family.

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is now available for all parents with a baby due before or after 05 April 2015. Supporters says that it will help women return to the workplace and allow men to be more involved in caring for their children.

However, new research by My Family Care and Workingmums.co.uk has revealed that parents are uncertain about what the changes mean and are unclear on how they can take advantage of the new legislation.

Of the 1,000 people questioned by consumer researchers, 1 in 4 (25%) admitted they were unaware of the changes. Nearly a third (32%) said they don’t understand the changes at all and a further 31% said the changes had left them with plenty of unanswered questions. A huge 72% said they specifically didn’t understand SPLIT days, making this a key issue that will need to be addressed

Gillian Nissim from Workingmums.co.uk, one of the companies who undertook the research, says: “What comes through from the survey data clearly is that parents are not aware of how SPL works, particularly on the detail like SPLIT days which allow mums and dads to keep in touch with work by working up to 20 days during their leave with their employers’ agreement.

“It is also interesting that they prefer a single block of leave to shorter periods. This may be because they think this would be less disruptive for all involved or because they find it difficult to understand how shorter blocks might work.

“It is clear that parents will need some guidance to help them negotiate this new legislation and how it might affect their family so they can make a decision that works for them. The aim of SPL is to open up choice for parents, but it must be an informed choice.”

When it comes to uptake of Shared Parental Leave, the research found that 41% of couples would not even consider it, although 80% said they would change their decision if their company provided enhanced SPL, which will otherwise be at the statutory level.

Almost half (43%) think that taking leave could impact their partner’s career progress and therefore the long-term family finances. On the other hand, 35% of people – presumably made up of a majority of mothers – said that taking SPL would be positive for their career.

Ben Black, Director of My Family Care, which helps companies introduce family-friendly ways of working, says: “These results show that there is still a long way to go when it comes to educating people about Shared Parental Leave.

“However, I believe that as time goes by and becomes a part of everyday working culture, the uptake will increase and employees will welcome the chance to spend more time with their new baby or share their maternity leave with their partner.

“This is ground-breaking legislation and only time will tell how it is welcomed by employers and employees alike.”

For more information visit:

Shared Parental Leave – What you need to know

My Family Care – Information for businesses and consumers

Gov.uk – Shared Parental Leave