The new era of family friendly rights is almost upon us and with just weeks to go before Shared Parental Leave will come in to force alongside maternity, paternity and adoption leave for births or placements on or after 5 April 2015. Is your business ready?
Shared Parental Leave is being applied in order to encourage the sharing of leave between working parents and allow flexibility for employees to both take part in family care should they wish to.
Shared Parental Leave does not replace existing maternity, paternity and adoption leave rights it enables mothers/adopters to elect to convert a portion of that leave, so that up to 50 weeks leave and 37 weeks pay can be shared between both parents.
Taking Shared Parental Leave
The amount of Shared Parental Leave available is calculated using the mother’s entitlement to maternity/adoption leave which allows them to take up to 52 weeks’ leave. A birth mother and an adopter must take a mandatory two weeks leave following the birth or placement of a child (a mandatory period of four weeks for manual work in a factory environment).
In order to take advantage of the right to Shared Parental Leave a parent on maternity/adoption leave must give notice to curtail their maternity/adoption leave and opt into Shared Parental Leave.
The curtailment notice must state the date upon which the mother’s statutory maternity leave is to end and must be at least 8 weeks after the date the curtailment notice is given and at least one day after the end of the mandatory maternity or adoption leave period. The remaining maternity/adoption leave period and pay can then be split between the parents provided that they meet the eligibility criteria.
Unlike maternity/adoption leave eligible employees can stop and start their Shared Parental Leave and return to work between periods of leave. Parents can apply for continuous or discontinuous periods of leave which they can take at the same time or separately up to the child’s first birthday or first anniversary of placement.
In order to be eligible to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) both parents must have been employed in the UK for at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the expected week of child birth or placement and earned an average of £30 in each 13 week period. A parent taking shared parental leave must have 26 weeks’ continuous service on the date 14 weeks before the expected week of birth or placement.
If either parent is seeking to use up the balance of Shared Parental Leave Pay (SPLP) the parent must have earned an average of £111 per week for the 8 weeks preceding the 14th week before the expected week of childbirth or placement.
The other parent entitled to SPL and SPLP will either be the father of the baby, the mother’s spouse or civil partner or will be in a longstanding relationship with the mother.
Taking Parental Leave
The initial requirement for taking parental leave is for the employee to submit a non-binding notice on their employer that he or she intends to take Shared Parental Leave stating that:
- The parent is entitled to Shared Parental Leave; and
- That the parent plans to take Shared Parental Leave.
The notice will also give a non binding indication of when they might take the leave and should contain the other parents consent to use their personal information.
The next stage is for the parent to give their employer a binding notice of the date the parent intends to take Shared Parental Leave. This must be at least 8 weeks before the leave period is intended to commence and must be arranged to take place in the first year or anniversary of the child’s birth or placement. Share Parental Leave may only be taken in blocks of 1 week and not partial weeks.
A parent can issue up to three binding notices of when they intend to take Shared Parental Leave and whether this is continuous or discontinuous. An employer cannot lawfully refuse three notices of continuous Shared Parental Leave, however an employer can refuse a request for discontinuous leave (e.g. one week on one week off) provided they have discussed the request with the employee.
Shared Parental Leave Pay (SPLP) is paid at a flat statutory rate rising to £139.58 per week from 5 April 2015.
If an employer currently offers enhanced maternity pay to employees, it is the government’s view that there is no legal requirement for employers to offer corresponding enhancements to Shared Parental Pay.
Employers are free to offer more generous enhanced arrangements if they wish but not obliged. Whether an employer who fails to pay enhanced Shared Parental Leave Pay will face a discrimination claim is yet to be seen and will depend upon the individual circumstances. It is clear however that, if an employer is going to offer enhanced Shared Parental Leave Pay they must offer this to both men and women as to fail to do so would be deemed discriminatory.
How should you be preparing:-
1. Prepare policies and forms for Shared Parental Leave
Establish a policy and process for Shared Parental Leave and how the employer will deal with requests and to make employees aware of their rights and obligations.
2. Train managers on Shared Parental Leave
Once a new policy has been set train your managers and employees on the policy and how to deal with requests for Shared Parental Leave and qualifying requirements.
Training employees now will mean when the new regulations come in to force you are not caught cold and reduce risk of breaches of the new regulations.
3. Discuss and raised awareness with employees
It will be easier for employers to deal with Shared Parental Leave requests if an open dialogue is had with employees and parties are encouraged to discuss their plans and intentions early on about whether and how employees intend to take Shared Parental Leave. Open dialogue with employees will enable you to better plan and cope with any requests for Shared Parental Leave and engage with your employees on this new family friendly right.