Shared Parental Leave (SPL) came into force on 5 April 2015 in the UK and enables parents to share childcare responsibilities during the first year of their child’s life. SPL is not a new concept but is in fact already widely used across a number of European countries. To help employers and employees in the UK understand what the introduction of SPL aims to achieve and the extent of the entitlement we will be looking at its origin and how it is used in other countries. Accordingly, this blog is the first in a mini-series of three blogs starting with looking at the origin of the concept; then how the entitlement is used in Germany & France; and then finally, in the third blog, we will be looking at the SPL rights which have been introduced in the UK.
A Scandinavian import
Rumour has it that SPL in the UK has its origins in a trip David Cameron took to Sweden. In Sweden, as well as in other Nordic countries, parental leave is strongly oriented towards supporting a dual earner family whereby both parents are involved in both the labour market and care work and earnings-related parental insurance benefits entitles both parents to extensive leave.
Shared parental leave has existed in Sweden since 1974 and the entitlement was increased in 2002 to a total of 480 days of leave. A ‘daddy’ quota was introduced already in 1995 to encourage fathers to actively make use of parental leave and today each parent has two non-transferable months (with plans to introduce a third month from 2016 and twelve transferable months (six for each parent that can be transferred). For instance, this means that if the father does not use the full two (non-transferable) month-period (soon to be three months) it will simply be lost.
Leave …but also pay
For children born from 1 January 2014, parents may receive payment for Parental leave until the child reaches 12 years of age; 80 percent of the leave (384 days) has to be used before the child turns four. Most leave is used within the first two years of the child’s life but days are often also used to extend holidays or cover for when school is closed.
In Sweden, the government has been encouraging parental leave since 1974 and has put in place measures, including remuneration by the State at least three times as generous as in the UK, to both shift the cultural expectations that it is mothers who take leave and ensure that parents can afford a long break from work. However, further encouragement was needed for parents to divide parental leave evenly between them and so parents of children born on or after 1 July 2008 receive a ‘Gender Equality Bonus’ (jämställdhetsbonus) which is a bonus of an additional 50 SEK tax free per day for families who divide Parental leave equally between the mother and the father. It is clear to see that shared parental leave and its success is high on the political agenda in Sweden with real financial incentives being offered.
In the next blog we will be looking at SPL in Germany and France.