Britain’s biggest employer set to penalise those using Shared Parental Leave

In a letter to the editor, Greg Jefferies, a radiographer with the NHS, outlined how female staff are eligible for enhanced pay under the current maternity policy, but not under the new SPL framework.

He went on to say: “Male staff are unlikely to wish to utilise the policy as they too will only be entitled to statutory pay. It seems extremely unlikely anyone, male of female, would use the SPL policy in the NHS.”

The letter to Real Business from Jefferies was in response to a piece of editorial written by Liberal Democrat MP, and minister for employment relations, Jo Swinson headlined “Shared Parental Leave: It’s time for employers to get their houses in order” on 27 March.

Jefferies, who is with his wife expecting a child on 6 April, said to us that he hoped to take advantage of SPL to “share our child’s early development and care”. However, by his understanding, the SPL policy “may be in vain” for the large demographic that work for the NHS.

SPL enables both parents of the child who are employees, (not necessarily of the same employer) to take leave simultaneously addressing the fundamental problem with additional paternity leave – that the father could only take the additional paternity leave if the mother returned to work.

The SPL option will be available to parents if their child is born or adopted only on or after 5 April 2015. Eligible employees will be able to share time off work and can decide between them (without reference to their respective employers) whether they would like to take the time off together or separately.

Read more about Shared Parental Leave:

The NHS is the largest employer in the UK, and fifth largest in the world. According to the organisation itself, it employs “more than 1.6m people” and caters to a population of 53.9m in England.

Real Business reached out to the NHS by phone and email for clarification on the issue of SPL, and how it would be implementing it, and were directed to a “need to know” section on SPL hosted on the NHS website.

In his letter to us, Jefferies added: “I understand that the SPL policy treats men and women equally, but women could gain from the maternity policy before utilising the SPL policy. Quite simply, I am not being treated equally, the NHS SPL policy does not appear to benefit anybody.”

He added: “I know I am the first father (to be) in Wales that is looking to apply for SPL and likely to be the first in UK, so should I wish to fight my cause it’s going to be a lonely battle. Should there be a policy u-turn down the line it will be too late to benefit me anyway, but I still feel strongly about this.”

Below is a full transcript of the letter sent to Real Business by Greg Jefferies.

31/03/2015

Real Business

Unit G4 Harbour Yard 

Chelsea Harbour 

London, SW10 0XD

Dear Mr Hunter Ruthven,

Regarding Jo Swinson’s article, “Shared Parental Leave: It’s time for employers to get their houses in order.” 27 March

The article extols the benefits of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) for employers and employees; unfortunately in our experience this does not, and will not work in practice.

My wife and I were excited to hear of the new regulations, but fear they may be in vain for the large demographic that work for the NHS. I am a radiographer working within the NHS.

The NHS interpretation not only negates the intentions of the SPL regulations, but also leaves itself open to claims of discrimination. Female staff are eligible for enhanced pay under the maternity policy, but not under the SPL policy. Male staff are unlikely to wish to utilise the policy as they too will only be entitled to statutory pay. It seems extremely unlikely anyone, male or female would wish to use the SPL policy in the NHS. The government’s expected uptake of 2-8% therefore seems highly ambitious.

My wife and I are expecting our first child on 6th April and hoped to utilise the SPL policy to share our child’s early development and care. Given how the NHS is a pioneer for equality, we obviously expected the SPL policy to mirror that of the civil service. Unfortunately this is not the case and I will be worse off financially than my female counterparts by wanting the equal opportunity to care for my child.

We wanted to bring this to your attention as we feel that I am being discriminated against by my employer due to my sex. I understand that the SPL policy treats men and women equally, but women could gain from the maternity policy before utilising the SPL policy. Quite simply I am not being treated equally, the NHS SPL policy does not appear to benefit anybody.

Yours Sincerely,

Greg Jefferies

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