How Will Shared Parental Leave Affect Your Business?

The Government has recently announced a change to the Parental Leave & Pay laws, which will come into effect for any child born or adopted after April 5th, 2015. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently introduced the changes as a challenge to “old fashioned” workplace attitudes to looking after children. He claims to be targeting those who “raise an eyebrow when their male workers request time off to look after their children.” According to the TUC, these changes will affect around 285,000 couples, which means that many businesses will be affected. Shared Parental Leave, therefore, needs careful consideration now, in order to ensure that businesses existing maternity, paternity and adoption policies take account of the changes. According to the TUC, these changes will affect around 285,000 couples – that means that many businesses will be affected.

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Current Legal Obligations

The current legal obligation for businesses within the UK regarding maternity leave and ordinary paternity leave will not change. At the moment, fathers are entitled to two weeks paid paternity leave, and a further two weeks paternity leave if agreed with the employer (usually unpaid). Research has shown that 9 out of 10 fathers choose to take an additional two weeks paternity leave, and the majority of businesses were this happens have agreed to pay the father his normal wage during this time. However, entitlement to this additional paternity leave will be abolished under the shared parental leave law. From April 2015, parents will be entitled to share parental leave where the mother can curtail her maternity leave, but the mother must take at least two weeks compulsory maternity leave before doing so.

Shared Parental Leave means that Mothers and Fathers/Partners will now have the right to share up to 52 weeks of parental leave – concurrently or consecutively. The change in parental leave law means that the couple could take their leave together, the mother could return to work and allow her partner to take the rest of her leave, or a couple could take their leave in turns.

Shared parental leave must be taken in blocks of at least a week, and must be taken within 52 weeks of the child’s birth. Fathers can also take two weeks statutory paid leave in addition to any shared parental leave. It is important to note though that the length of statutory pay period will not be changing. Statutory maternity pay will stay at 39 weeks for the mother, and two weeks for the father/partner – although this will now be allowed to be shared. Employers will be able to recoup the majority of the statutory parental leave cost from the Government.

A father who asks to take shared parental leave has to give his employer at least eight weeks’ notice in order for the employer to be able to plan sufficient cover. Employers will have to allow the request, as long as their employee has 26 weeks continuous service and is not self-employed. It is important to note that these rules also apply to unmarried couples and adoptive parents.

Fathers/Partners will also be entitled to up to 20 “Shared Parental Leave in Touch” (SPLIT) days, similar to the Keeping in touch (KIT) days that women on Maternity Leave are entitled to. SPLIT days are optional, and both employer & employee need to agree to them, as well as agree on the type of work to be completed and the pay to be received too. The employee’s right to maternity leave & pay, adoption leave & pay, or additional paternity leave & pay is not affected by taking their SPLIT days.

ACAS have put together a great one page summary guide, click the link here.