Thank you to everyone in Lewisham Deptford who has taken the time to contact me about Shared Parental Leave (SPL) reform.

I appreciate your concerns on this issue and agree that we need to reform SPL. Maternity Action’s analysis of Government statistics suggests that only 3.5% of eligible fathers took SPL last year, well short of the quarter of fathers the Government said it wanted to take the leave in 2017. It is clear that the system is failing and that this has severe consequences in terms of equalities as well as depriving parents and children key time to bond.

The Government itself has noted that anecdotal evidence suggests that the current scheme is not working for either parents or employers and committed to reform of parental leave in 2019. Yet we are still waiting for it to respond to a consultation on this issue, as well as its evaluation of Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

I believe we need a review of the SPL system urgently and for the Government to bring forward reforms to the scheme and this is something that Labour has called for.

I know Maternity Action has proposed a system of non-transferrable leave for each parent – that is “use it or lose it” rights to leave. I hope the Government will give proper consideration to its proposals and the impact non-transferrable leave could have in enabling parents to have more choice in balancing work and family life and to contribute to the economic success of the country.

The Government has said it will publish its evaluation of the SPL and Shared Parental Pay scheme alongside its response to the 2019 consultation on parental leave and pay later this year. I can assure you that I will continue to monitor this issue and keep in mind the important points you raise – it is long overdue that we establish a system that works for everyone and where parents are not forced to choose between time with their children and being able to support them.

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