Shared Parental Leave
From 5 April 2015, parents of babies due or children adopted from 5 April 2015 will be entitled to take shared parental leave.
What is changing?
This will be a new right and it will work alongside maternity leave – eligible parents will be able to opt into this new regime which will mean the mother bringing her maternity leave to an end.
What do I need to be aware of?
The main points to be aware of are:
• Parents will be able to take a total of 52 weeks leave after a baby is born or a child is adopted. The effect of shared parental leave is that parents will be able to share leave between them after the initial compulsory leave period of 2 weeks which must be taken by the mother.
• This will therefore leave up to 50 weeks leave that can be shared between parents, in blocks of one week or more.
• This leave must be taken before the child’s first birthday.
• Leave does not have to be taken in one continuous block. Requests may be made for shorter but more numerous blocks of shared parental leave.
• Pay will be available for 39 weeks of the 52 weeks shared parental leave and the rates will match the rates available for Statutory Maternity Pay.
• Parents will have to satisfy eligibility tests.
• 20 days of work will be allowed which will not bring the shared parental leave to an end. In maternity leave, they are known as KIT days. In shared parental leave, they will be known as SPLIT days.
How does this affect employers?
It is unclear whether this new right will result in an increase in the number of men who apply for leave to spend time with their new child. The aim of this change is to try and change society’s view that it is the mother who will always be the prime carer. Time will tell whether it will become culturally more acceptable for fathers to have time off. Affordability will no doubt play an important part in this.
Employers should be aware of this new right and review their policies accordingly. There are complicated notification requirements that the parents will have to comply with.
It may be that very little changes. The uptake of additional paternity leave by men currently is very low and this new right may not make much of a change. This should however be on an employer’s radar.
What we can do for you
We can help you review your current policy to make sure it is correct and/or help you draft a new policy. We can advise you on the more difficult issues of whether enhanced maternity benefits should be extended to those taking shared parental leave and how to deal with challenges of requests for blocks of discontinuous leave.