What is it? Who can use it?
Having been through the process of applying for shared parental leave, and discussing it with many of my peers, I have found that within the military there is a huge resistance to men having time off to look after their children. There is a large part of me that is resisting a rant throughout the creation of this post over the way this is being dealt with within the Military environment. I have had no dealings with it in the civilian world as yet, but I’m sure to receive questions from both ends of the spectrum.
The reason is this..
Shared Parental leave is a government scheme introduced in 2015 (Wait - What?). Yes, 7 years this has been available and is probably the least talked about new parent opportunity that has ever been around. Some of t
his is just disbelief, some of it is lack of information and some of it is down to gender stereotyping. We are not about to launch into a rant about this either! The fact is that times have changed, and although the Suffragette movement planted the seeds of equality, we are yet to really embrace fruit from the tree in this area. And this is some good tasting fruit.
We are able to share up to 50 weeks of (maternity) leave, and up to 37 weeks of pay between the parents. This takes into account that maternity leave is 52 weeks as standard. Mum has to take the first 2 weeks maternity, Dad gets 2 weeks paternity anyway, so you can now use the remaining 50 weeks Maternity between the two of you and it’s called Shared Parental Leave. It is amazing that we have come this far, we simply need more people to know about this.
This doesn’t just apply to the birth of a normally conceived baby either. This applies if you are having a baby via surrogate, adopting a child, and if you are fostering a child you are planning to adopt.
This is the greatest leap forward for women's careers being affected by childbirth and mens opportunity to be more hands on as a parent. It is critical for employers to understand this too. No more gender bias when employing staff as they risk losing Miss Smith for a year when she decides to have a child.
What's the catch?
The catch is this, one of you will be giving up time for the other partner to monopolise on this amazing opportunity.
What is the difference where the military is concerned?
You’ll be glad to find out that although this article is being directed at military staff, there is little to no difference in how this is handled from civilian to military life. The fact is that this is a government initiative, and the government employs the military, not the other way round. Even the MOD emails show you this - mod.GOV.UK - big.BIGGER.BIGGEST.
Sadly, I recently spoke to a chap who didn’t put in for this entitlement because he believed “They’re never going to sign that off”. So there is a small truth to be realised, which is that we are denying ourselves this opportunity by being a little shy about rocking the boat or asking “the Boss” for time off. I myself had several roadblocks put in place and a good dose of guilt tripping and animosity. It was an unpleasant experience. However at the end of it, I said thank you and left work for 6 months to be an integral part of my new born child's early development, and taking the opportunity that has long been a female privilege and burden.
It is also worth noting that when this is being applied for, the unit needs to provide a huge amount of evidence to prove that they cannot manage without you in order to ‘defer’ your entitled leave. Yes, ‘defer’, not cancel. This, although it’s sad to say, it is highly unlikely Rifleman Smith that you are the linchpin of the unit. This is why you are given a number that is 8 digits long in order to identify you. The lads will be jealous and many will have opinions. Remember who you go home to, who provides you with real support, and their name doesn’t start “Sergeant”.
And remember - The same people that are about to give you your annual equality and diversity lesson, are the same people that sign off on your equal rights as a parent. ;)
So in short, make sure you both qualify for this opportunity. There are several immovable requirements. Start by using the government's guideline on this here. It has a wealth of information, and you will probably need to give this link to your chain of command or employer as many have no idea what they are talking about.
The doctrine is very wordy, so much so that there are a multitude of videos explaining what the criteria is and what you can do with your leave, such as how you can split the leave up between you.
Watch out for the quick responses from people! I have, as many of you will also have, had many responses from UPO’s and welfare offices and bosses where they THINK they know the answer. Sadly for some they feel if they give you an accepted answer then this is ok. Get a second opinion. You will also have someone within your organisation that specialises in this. My contact who deals with this for the Navy and the Marines is an amazing resource. The Army, RAF and SF community will all have someone in a similar position. You are all entitled to this!
As always, if you have any questions please enter the forum and ask or contact us directly.