The art of better marketing – or – What’s the difference between Additional and Shared Parental Leave?

As reflected in the name of this small blogging effort, I am taking Additional Parental Leave (APL) to look after my now 10 month old son for 3 months. However this scheme is no more. As of 5 April 2015 it has been replaced by Shared Parental Leave (SPL).

“So this is a significant shake up that has completely reformed the way it works to ensure that everyone gets a better deal?” I hear a reader cry (probably into their beer at my grammar). Well, I’m not so sure. In fact, I know it hasn’t as the purpose was never to significantly change the scheme.

In essence SPL is simply a more flexible form of APL. It doesn’t assume that the mother will be the primary cater for the first 20 weeks as APPL does, and allows you to take leave in more than one block. In essence it really says that you get up to 12 months parental leave between you, and you can divide it anyway you like. Including to overlap it, so you could both take the first 6 months after birth as leave together. 

Do I think these changes are significant? In a word, no. Yes, they are more flexible, but aren’t going to make a real difference to most families choices. Until the other parent (mostly a man) gets paid equally to maternity leave (i.e. employers pony up for at least 3 months full pay), it won’t increase take up rates on its own as so many men still earn more. Chatting to the ladies in the NCT group it is clear that none of them could realistically have done it without significant sacrifice, had they even wanted to.

(I would also note that the increased flexibility is likely to most benefit nurseries, as it will mean mothers will return to work and require childcare services sooner.)

What it does do is provide an opportunity to market the concept better than they did first time round. Almost everyone I’ve told about taking APL (who has heard of it) asked “oh so that’s the new system then?”, to which I’ve politely always replied “no it came in in 2011” to general surprise. This included enlightened parents who might have taken advantage of the scheme in the past 4 years! So the additional publicity SPL has had is welcome, and will hopefully encourage more people to take advantage of the #dadtime on offer. ‘Cos it’s brilliant. 

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