The new system Shared Parental Leave system

came into effect on 1 December 2014 and applies to parents of babies due (or children placed for adoption) on or after 5 April 2015. Employed mothers and fathers/partners who meet the qualifying criteria are able to end the mother’s maternity leave and pay and share the balance as flexible parental leave and pay. Mothers will still be required to take two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave (four weeks for manual workers), but they can then share the remaining 50 weeks’ maternity leave and 37 weeks’ pay.

The is one of the current Governments key “family friendly” policies and they are predicting a take up rate of 2%.

The key points in the new system are as outlined by the CIPD are:

· The right to shared parental leave applies to babies with an expected week of childbirth starting on or after 5 April 2015.

· The default position remains that a woman is entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave and 39 weeks’ maternity pay.

· A woman on maternity leave can commit to bringing her maternity leave and pay period to an end early. The balance of the maternity leave and pay period becomes available for either parent to take as shared parental leave and pay.

· Shared parental leave can be taken in periods of a week or multiples of a week at a time.

· A parent can take a period of shared parental leave at the same time that the other parent is on maternity leave or shared parental leave.

· A parent will only qualify to take shared parental leave if the other parent meets basic work and earnings criteria and the parent taking the leave meets the individual eligibility criteria (such as having 26 weeks’ continuous service at the 15th week before the EWC and remaining in the same employment).

· An employer must have at least eight weeks’ notice of any period of shared parental leave.

· Each parent can make up to three requests for periods of shared parental leave. Whether the employer can refuse a request depends on whether the employee has asked for a continuous or discontinuous period of leave

· Shared parental leave has to be taken before the child’s first birthday.

· Rights during a period of shared parental leave mirror those of a woman on maternity leave: all terms and conditions of employment continue except those relating to remuneration.

· If employees suffer any detrimental treatment or are dismissed as a result of taking or asking to take shared parental leave they can bring a complaint to the employment tribunal.

· The rules apply to adopting parents as well

So what does this mean for employers?

· You need to review your existing policies and procedures to ensure they’re updated to reflect the new changes (this includes your Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave, Paternity Leave and Agency Workers policies)

· The process itself is quite complex so getting prepared with relevant forms and checklists will make things a lot easier

· You need to start discussions with employees early, and don’t forget you can get these requests from your pregnant employees but also their partners (this includes fathers, partners, civil partners)

There are guidance booklets available from the Gov.uk website or ACAS or you can give us a call if you have any questions.

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