Shared Parental Leave

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Why is take-up of Shared Parental Leave so low? What can be done to improve take-up?

Executive summary

  • Significant barriers to the take-up of SPL were identified through this research, notably: organisational, cultural, communication, financial and policy barriers. Gatekeeping behaviours were also influential.
  • Unlike previous research in this field, this sample includes people who were entitled to but did not take SPL and those who had children but were not entitled, such as the self-employed, as well as those who took SPL.
  • Other factors which affected take-up included: socio-economic background and job role, education and information seeking skills and ethnic background.
  • Key recommendations include: review workplace culture, improved and timely SPL communications, use relatable workplace champions, review Equality Act (2010) to include paternity characteristics, expand eligibility criteria and remove maternal transfer mechanism.


In 2015, Shared Parental Leave (SPL) replaced Additional Paternity Leave, which had failed to appeal to families. SPL allows parents to share the care of their child in the first year after birth or adoption and provides much more flexibility for families. Last year take-up of statutory paid SPL was low, at just over one percent. However, very little academic research has been undertaken to understand why this is the case. The Equal Parenting project aims to understand why SPL does not seem to be appealing to families and what can be done to best improve awareness and increase uptake.


Dr Holly Birkett and Dr Sarah Forbes

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