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Are you ready for shared parental leave?

The final Shared Parental Leave Regulations have now been published and will come into force on 1 December 2014. Shared parental leave will be available to parents of children with an expected week of childbirth, or who are placed for adoption, on or after 5 April 2015.

Given that employees must give 8 weeks’ notice if they want to take shared parental leave, we will see requests coming in from January / February next year. Therefore, if you have not already done so, it is a good time to get to grips with the new right and to put a shared parental leave policy in place.

Shared parental leave at a glance

  • Shared parental leave (“SPL”) allows parents to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed for adoption.
  • The mother must take the first 2 weeks of leave after childbirth but the remaining 50 weeks’ leave (and 37 weeks’ pay) can be shared.
  • The leave may be taken consecutively, or concurrently by both parents.
  • 2 weeks’ paid ordinary paternity leave is still available, provided it is taken by the father / partner prior to them taking SPL. Additional paternity pay and leave is no longer available.
  • Employees taking SPL must have 26 weeks’ service at the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (or at the week in which an adopter was notified of having been matched with a child for adoption) and must still employed in the first week that SPL is to be taken.
  • The mother and the father/partner must both give their employer 8 weeks’ notice of their intention to take SPL (“the opt-in notice”). There are detailed statutory rules on what information must be provided, including a non-binding indication of the expected pattern of leave.
  • A mother’s partner can start SPL while the mother is still on maternity leave, provided the mother has handed in a curtailment notice.
  • SPL can be taken in a minimum of one week blocks.
  • Parents must agree the timing and periods of SPL with their employers.
  • An employee who requests a single continuous block of SPL will be entitled to that leave.
  • An employee can ask to take SPL in discontinuous blocks but this may be refused after a 2-week discussion period. If it is refused, the employee will be entitled to take the full amount of requested SPL as one continuous block (to start when the employee chooses); or withdraw their leave notice.
  • Up to 3 separate SPL notices can be given, allowing employees to take up to 3 separate blocks of SPL.
  • It is possible that only the father will qualify for SPL (e.g. where the mother is self-employed).

We have prepared an example shared parental leave policy and guidance. Please get in touch for more details.

Further information is also available on the ACAS website.

I pay enhanced maternity pay. Do I need to pay enhanced shared parental pay?

Offering enhanced maternity pay, but not enhanced shared parental pay, could pose a sex discrimination risk. To minimise this risk, if you are considering offering enhanced maternity pay but not enhanced shared parental pay, be able to justify your approach (e.g. it may be a recruitment or retention tool for female employees), preferably with written statistical evidence. Alternatively, you may want to consider offering enhanced pay but making it subject to conditions, such as requiring SPL to be taken at a particular time or in one single block.

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