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SPL (Shared parental leave) was brought in to place in 2015 by the Government with the aim of enabling parents to choose how they would like to share care-giving responsibilities during the first year of their child’s life. Prior to that the main entitlements to leave were through maternity leave (up to 52 weeks, partially paid), paternity leave (two weeks) and adoption leave (up to 52 weeks, partially paid). The eligibility for each depends on employment status, but these options made it difficult and often financially unviable for anyone other than a mother to take time off to care for a new baby.
New leave regulations were brought into place which now enable eligible parents to share up to 50 weeks of SPL between them, as well as up to 37 weeks of statutory shared parental Pay (£114.68 or 90% of your earnings, whichever is lower). While this move has been positive, in most cases it is still financially better for mothers to take maternity leave rather than to share their leave and take statutory shared parental pay, as this usually does not match up to what the mother would receive if she took the full year of maternity leave. For example, salaried GPs who are entitled to eight weeks at full pay followed by 14 weeks at half pay, would be much worse off if they terminated this leave early, in favour of taking statutory SPL (£114.68/week).
One of the main challenges is that a number of people do not qualify for shared parental leave or pay due to their employment status (full details about eligibility criteria can be found here). We know through studies of other countries where SPL is well reimbursed that fathers/partners are much more likely to take this option, and that they are then much more likely to share care-giving responsibilities in the future.
Earlier this year the junior doctors committee successfully negotiated enhanced shared parental leave, which meant that this leave would be paid at equal rates as the enhanced maternity leave in their contracts. This has been an incredibly positive move for them and will hopefully start to address gender pay gaps seen across medicine.
However, currently GPs do not have access to these enhanced shared leave and shared pay arrangements. Tomorrow at the LMC England conference, the sessional GPs committee will be calling on GPC to negotiate adequate reimbursement from NHS England to provide enhanced shared parental leave for all GPs. We hope that this will make it is equitable for all parents to take leave as suits their family’s needs without the worry of losing out financially. We also hope to promote equality in the workplace for women through targeting factors such as this, which are contributing to the shocking 33% pay difference between male and female GPs, identified earlier this year.
We believe that choices around your family should be up to you to make, not dictated by employers and what they consider to be the best option. Other countries, industries and even branches of practice are already leading the way by providing equally paid SPL; we are determined to ensure that we, as sessional GPs, are entitled to this too.
If you have taken SPL as a sessional GP and have had either a positive or negative experience, then we would love to hear from you. Please email [email protected] with your examples.
Sarah Westerbeek is a member of the executive team on the Sessional GPs committee at BMA
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It’s about time this issue was addressed globally for all GPs, to give female GPs the confidence and a level playing field in their career development. It’s also very important that the fathers are given equality and choice in their care- giver role. The child will benefit most from a close loving bond with both parents equally and grow up as well balanced adults. Well done Sarah for trailblazing this issue for all of us and putting it on the table. A big thank you and good luck..
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