Taking up Shared Parental Leave and Pay: employer and employee perspectives

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About the study

This report presents findings from a qualitative study conducted in 2019-2020 on the motivations, barriers and perceived effects of the Shared Parental Leave and Pay (SPL) policies on employers and employees in a range of workplaces.


  • Four key factors influenced employees’ decision making: work-life balance, finances, approach to parenting and workplace culture. For employees who prioritised finances in their decision-making, access to enhanced Shared Parental Pay was described as “crucial”.
  • The experience of sharing parental leave was thought to have prompted a more shared approach to parenting, both during leave and afterwards.
  • Employees did not perceive any negative career impacts following SPL. Male employees felt better prepared for parenting and gained new perspectives on work-life balance. Female employees did however note that returning to work was less challenging after a shorter period of leave.
  • For employers, the positives of having staff on leave included the new perspectives that cover staff could bring to a role and a perceived boost to the morale of staff who had taken leave. Negatives included the cost of finding and training cover staff.
  • Smoother transitions back to work were underpinned by the use of Keeping in Touch days, flexible working arrangements and handovers with cover staff. Where employers felt they had not managed the return to work as effectively this was due to a lack of staff resources and line manager training.
  • The findings illuminated three key ways that take up of SPL could be improved: raising awareness of the policy among employees and of the positive reported effects of SPL on staff morale, wellbeing, productivity, recruitment and retention among employers; better guidance and support for employers on how SPL can practically work; and employers offering enhanced Shared Parental Pay to facilitate take up.


The research adopted a qualitative case study design, using in-depth interviews. A total of 19 interviews were conducted with senior managers, line managers and employees across the six case studies. Interviews took place before the COVID-19 pandemic.