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Shared parental leave – are you ready?

With International Women’s Day last Sunday, 8 March, it is a good time to reflect on the progress that has been made towards equality between the sexes in the workplace. The new right to Shared Parental Leave, which 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, is a positive step in this direction. There is now a recognition that workplace policies should enable parents to share work and family roles.

Any employer who has not yet grappled with the details of the new system had better get started now, because it’s not straightforward.

First, the basic idea is that, after the mother of a newborn child has taken the compulsory two weeks’ maternity leave, the mother and father can then share 50 further weeks of leave, taking blocks of leave in turns or both taking it at the same time. As the total amount of leave is shared, if the parents take leave at the same time it will be used two weeks at a time for each calendar week, meaning that the mother and father can take up to a maximum of 25 weeks simultaneously. This same concept also applies to 39 weeks of “maternity/paternity” pay.

This basic idea seems relatively simple. But employers will need to understand that there are different criteria for each of the mother and father in respect of both Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay.

To qualify for Shared Parental Leave an employee must (1) be the child’s mother or adopter; (2) be the biological father of the child, or (3) be the mother’s husband, partner, civil partner, or be the husband or partner of the primary adopter; AND (4) have 26 weeks continuous employment 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth or the date of matching with an adoptive child.

Employees qualify for Statutory Shared Parental Pay if either they qualify for Statutory Maternity or Statutory Adoption Pay, or they qualify for Statutory Paternity Pay and have a partner who qualifies for Statutory Maternity Pay, Maternity Allowance or Statutory Adoption Pay.

Eight weeks before they plan to take their leave, both parents must provide their respective employers with required information confirming that they are eligible and notify them of how they intend to take the leave. Employers are not obliged to agree to a plan involving several “discontinuous” blocks of leave, but must accept a proposal involving one continuous block of leave. There is the added complication that one employer may agree to a proposal and one employer may not.

Are you with me?

Please get in touch if you need advice on implementing a Shared Parental Leave and Pay policy or if you would like more details on any of the steps set out above.

More information is also available in our earlier blog and on the ACAS website.

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