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Shared Parental Leave – a guide for employers

Since December last year couples expecting a baby on or after 5th April 2015 will be eligible to take shared parental leave (SPL). As an employer, you need to ensure that you are prepared for the changes and ready to deal with requests from your employees. By creating a clear policy this will enable you to meet your business needs and ensure that your employees know their entitlement.

What is shared parental leave?

Shared parental leave (SPL) gives parents more flexibility in how they decide to use their time off work following the birth or adoption of a child. After compulsory maternity leave has been taken (2 weeks ordinarily or 4 weeks for factory workers), the remaining 50/48 weeks can be shared between parents and taken as SPL. This allows parents to take time off together or separately to care for their child. 

Who is entitled to SPL?

Your employee is entitled to SPL if they share the main responsibility for the care of the child and are either the child’s mother or father or partner to the mother (where the child’s father does not share the main responsibility with the mother).

The following conditions must also be fulfilled:

  • the employee must have at least 26 weeks continuous employment with you by the end of the Qualifying Week (the fifteenth week before the expected week of childbirth), and still be employed in the week before the leave is to be taken;
  • the other parent must have worked (in an employed or self-employed capacity) in at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the expected week of childbirth (EWC) and had average weekly earnings of at least £30 during 13 of those weeks
  • your employee and the other parent must give the necessary statutory notices and declarations as summarised below, including notice to end any maternity leave, statutory maternity pay (SMP) or maternity allowance (MA) periods.

Does it replace Ordinary and Additional Maternity and Paternity Leave?

Parents will still have the option to take the Ordinary and Additional Maternity Leave and Paternity leave. However the Additional Paternity Leave will no longer be available. The default scheme will be the existing maternity leave arrangements in the event that SPL is not requested.

Can fathers or partners of mothers take Paternity leave and SPL

Yes, however once they start SPL they will lose any untaken paternity leave entitlement. SPL entitlement is additional to their paternity leave entitlement.

What steps do employers need to take?

Business owners and employers are advised to prepare for this in advance of requests to take shared parental leave.

You should…

Develop a comprehensive policy to explain the concept of shared parental leave 

This is a brand new employment right. ‘Rules’ will be unfamiliar to your employees and managers. Make sure you have a clearly drafted policy and provide appropriate training to those involved.

Set out how much shared parental leave is available

Your shared parental leave policy should explain the amount of shared parental leave individuals are entitled to and the rules on when the mother can bring her maternity leave to an end.

Clarify who is eligible for shared parental leave

For employees to be eligible to take shared parental leave, both parents must meet detailed eligibility requirements. Make sure your employees and managers are aware of this. Your shared parental leave policy should state who is eligible to take shared parental leave.

Be clear on the notice requirements for shared parental leave

Employers are not able to set their own notice requirements. ‘Notices’ are required. There are three types of notice, a “maternity leave curtailment notice” a “notice of entitlement and intention” and finally a “period of leave notice”.   

State what happens in cases where continuous and discontinuous periods of shared parental are leave is requested

Your policy should describe the differences between continuous and discontinuous leave.

Beware that if you reject an application for discontinuous leave you must allow the employee to take continuous leave.

Consider how much shared parental pay is available

You must offer statutory parental pay.

For employees to be eligible for statutory shared parental pay, both parents must meet certain eligibility requirements.

If you offer enhanced maternity pay, you should consider carefully if you intend to enhance shared parental pay. A failure to enhance statutory shared parental pay when maternity pay is enhanced could put you at serious risk of sex discrimination claims from your male workforce.

We are here to help

If you would like help drafting your policy or any further advice, please contact Hallidays HR on 0161 476 8278 or email hr@hallidays.co.uk

Posted 15th April 2015

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