By Daniel Hunter

Shared Parental Leave comes into force today (Sunday), allowing couples to share 12 months of leave after the birth of their child.

The aim is to help women return to the workplace and allow men to have more involvement in caring for new babies.

But new research by My Family Care and Workingmums.co.uk has revealed that parents are still very confused about what the changes mean and how they can take advantage of the new legislation.

Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 25% said they were unaware of the changes while nearly a third (32%) said they don’t understand the changes at all. Just over three in 10 (31%) said would need plenty of questions answered before they understood Shared Parental Leave and 72% said they specifically didn’t understand SPLIT days.

Gillian Nissim from Workingmums.co.uk, said: “What comes through from the survey data clearly is that parents are not aware of how SPL works, particularly on the detail like SPLIT days which allow mums and dads to keep in touch with work by working up to 20 days during their leave with their employers' agreement.

"It is also interesting that they prefer a single block of leave to shorter periods. This may be because they think this would be less disruptive for all involved or because they find it difficult to understand how shorter blocks might work. It is clear that parents will need some guidance to help them negotiate this new legislation and how it might affect their family so they can make a decision that works for them. The aim of SPL is to open up choice for parents, but it must be an informed choice."

The research found that 41% of couples would not even consider it although 80% said they would change their decision if their company provided enhanced SPL. Almost half (43%) think that it could impact their partner’s career progress — and therefore family finances — while 35% of people said that taking SPL would be positive for their career.

Ben Black, Director of My Family Care, said: “These results show that there is still a long way to go when it comes to educating people about Shared Parental Leave. However, I believe that as time goes by and becomes a part of everyday working culture, the uptake will increase and employees will welcome the chance to spend more time with their new baby or share their maternity leave with their partner. This is ground-breaking legislation and only time will tell how it is welcomed by employers and employees alike.”