March 8, 2017

What can HR do to help working parents achieve a better work-life balance?

Achieving a good work-life balance is increasingly stressful for fathers. So much so that nearly half of working fathers would like to take a less stressful job so that they could spend more time with their children. And over a third would take a pay cut if it meant a better work-life balance. These are some of the findings of a new report by the work-life charity Working Families, in conjunction with childcare providers Bright Horizons.

Working Families says employers are failing to meet the needs of fathers and that the UK runs the risk of creating a ‘fatherhood penalty’. What’s that? It’s when fathers consider stalling or sidelining their careers by choosing roles that enable them to spend more time with their families.

Of course, it’s not only fathers who want a better deal from employers regarding work and family. A lot of women also cite work-life balance as a huge stress and many report that having children has had a negative effect on their career prospects. Research by the Pew Research Center found that mothers with children under the age of 18 were roughly three times as likely as fathers to report that it was harder to advance in their career or job as a result of being a parent (51% versus 16%).

So what do employers and HR need to do to help employees, fathers and mothers, to achieve a better work-life balance, while still being able to pursue a successful career progression?

Above all else, HR must meet with current UK legislative requirements. Let’s look at what they are, starting with maternity leave and pay.

Maternity leave and pay
How does a women qualify for maternity leave?
In order to be eligible for maternity leave, women must have an employment contract. It doesn’t matter how long they have worked for their employer, but they must give the correct notice. This means that women must tell their employer at least 15 weeks before the expected due date.

How does maternity leave work?
Women can take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is known as ordinary maternity leave and the subsequent 26 weeks as additional maternity leave.
Women must take at least two weeks off after the birth. That rises to four weeks for factory workers.
Maternity leave can start 11 weeks before the expected week of birth, unless the baby is born early.

How long does a woman have to work to qualify for statutory maternity pay?
In order to be eligible for maternity pay, women have to be registered on payroll in the qualifying week. The qualifying week is the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. They also need to have given their employer the correct notice, give proof pregnancy, have worked continuously for their employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the qualifying period and earn a minimum of £112 a week in an eight-week relevant period.

What is statutory maternity pay (SMP)?
SMP can be paid for up to 39 weeks. Usually, the woman receives 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax for the first six weeks, followed by £139.58 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever figure is lower) for the remaining 33 weeks.

Paternity leave
How much paternity leave are fathers entitled to?
If a man’s partner is having a baby, adopting a child or having a surrogate baby, he might be eligible for paternity leave. In order to be eligible, the man has to be an employee, have worked continuously for their employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth and have given the correct notice.

Eligibility for paternity pay
The father must have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. In addition, they must be employed by their employer up to the date of birth, earn at least £112 a week before tax and have given the correct notice.

How much is paid for paternity leave?
The statutory amount of paternity pay is £139.58 a week or 90% of average weekly earnings – the employer pays the lowest sum.

Shared parental leave (SPL) and statutory shared parental pay (ShPP)
Shared parental leave and pay was introduced by the government in April 2015. Under the regulations, parents can share up to 50 weeks’ leave and 37 weeks’ statutory pay in the first year of their child’s life.

Is it popular? According to research by the CIPD, released at the end of 2016 , only 5% of new fathers and 8% of new mothers are taking SPL. Only one-fifth (21%) of the 1,050 senior HR professionals polled in the research said they had received requests from male employees to take up SPL.

How do SPL and ShPP work?
Each parent qualifies separately for SPL and ShPP. Those who are eligible can start SPL and take leave in separate blocks, instead of taking it all in one go like maternity or adoption leave. If both parents are eligible, the leave can be shared.

How does a person qualify for SPL?
They must share responsibility for caring for the child with their partner or the child’s other parent. They must be eligible for maternity pay or leave, adoption pay or leave or maternity allowance. They must also have been in continuous employment with the same employer for at least 26 weeks (but not necessarily concurrently) and have earned a minimum of £390 in 13 of the 66 weeks. This covers employees, workers and self-employed people.

How does a person qualify for ShPP?
Employees can receive ShPP if they are eligible for SMP or statutory adoption pay (SAP) or if they are eligible for SSP and their partner is eligible for SMP, maternity allowance or SAP. They are also eligible for ShPP if they are a worker and are eligible for SMP or SPP.

Stats box:
– 47% of fathers would downsize to a less stressful job
– 38% would take a pay cut to improve work-life balance
– 70% would assess childcare before a new job or promotion
Source: Working Families and Bright Horizons

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