A new system of shared parental leave is set to be introduced for children due or adopted on or after 5th April 2015. The new system is designed to allow greater flexibility for parents and adopters in relation to caring for the child in the first 52 weeks after birth or adoption.
The regulations allow for the leave to be shared by eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters, meaning mothers could potentially return to work for a period of time allowing the father to take time off and then resume leave later on during the time frames for shared parental leave. Shared parental leave will comprise of 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory shared parental pay. The major difference is the ability to split the leave and take various periods as well as the option of one continuous period of leave.
This greater flexibility for mothers, fathers, partners and adopters may mean employers need to be better organised when it comes to their shared parental leave policies and procedures. Employers will need to look at their existing maternity and paternity policies.
How will shared parental leave effect the current regulations on maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay?
Shared parental leave will not replace the current rules on maternity and adoption leave, and statutory paternity leave. There will still remain the rights of maternity and adoption leave to 52 weeks leave (39 weeks paid and 13 unpaid). The 2 weeks statutory paternity leave will still remain. Additional paternity leave that was introduced in 2011 will be replaced by shared parental leave.
Who will be eligible?
In order to qualify for shared parental leave a parent must:
- Have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the child's due date and remains in continuous employment with that employer until the week before any period of shared parental leave is taken.
- Must share the main responsibility for the care of the child with the other parent.
- The other parent must satisfy an "employment and earnings" test. Duration of employment test is satisfied if the parent has been employed or self-employed for a period of not less than 26 weeks of the 66 weeks preceding the expected week of childbirth or placement for adoption. They also need to have average weekly earnings of not less than £30 per week in 13 of those weeks.
What notice needs to be given?
Employees will need to give 8 weeks' notice of their intention to take shared parental leave. The mother or adopter will need to serve what is known as a "curtailment notice". There will also be obligations on each parent providing details of the other parent's employer and their qualification to take shared parental leave.
What should employers be doing now?
Shared parental leave is another change in the already complicated regime of family leave rights and employers should be preparing now so they know where they stand when asked by expectant parents/adopters. As this leave not only relates to mothers there is no telling from whom a request for shared parental leave may arrive and this may come out of the blue from a father wishing to take some 30 or 40 weeks leave from the business.
Employers therefore should be thinking about:
- Amending and updating current policies and procedures;
- Creating the requisite forms and notices required to be given by employees;
- Training staff on the new regime if necessary;
- Planning how to communicate the change to employees.
If you are wondering how the new system will affect you or just need some help and guidance on drafting new policies and procedures please do not hesitate to contact us on 01603 693500, email us using 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham and Sheringham offices.