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Employers need to plan ahead ready to tackle shared parental leave

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Shared parental leave regulations are currently before Parliament and due to come into force in December this year - employees expecting babies on or after 5 April 2015 will qualify, so employers can expect enquiries on Shared Parental Leave from Autumn 2014 onwards.

From April next year new mothers and their partners, who are eligible, will be able to share up to 52 weeks between them, either in alternating blocks or taken together (subject to final Parliamentary approval).  Time off to accompany partners to two antenatal appointments are also part of the new regulations.

Commenting on them Pearson’s Head of Employment Susan Mayall said:  “Shared Parental Leave is a new right that will enable eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to share time off work after their child is born or placed and I would advise all employers to get up to speed on the new rules asap.  When a baby is due planning ahead is naturally part of the process for all concerned and if an employee has concerns about their maternity leave employers can work this through with them.”

Key points

  • Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of Maternity Leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance

  • If they choose to do so, an eligible mother can end her maternity leave early and, with her partner or the child's father, will be able to opt for Shared Parental Leave instead of Maternity Leave. If they both meet the qualifying requirements and both qualify, they will need to decide how they divide their total Shared Parental Leave and Pay entitlement between them

  • Paid Paternity Leave of two weeks will continue to be available to fathers and a mother's or adopter's partners

  • Adopters will have the same rights as other parents to Shared Parental leave and pay

  • Intended parents in surrogacy who meet certain criteria will be eligible for statutory adoption leave and pay and Shared Parental Leave and Pay

As Susan added there are certain criteria that must be met for employees to qualify: 

“Length of employment and eligibility for pay are two important criteria that need to be taken into account and at all times it will be for the mother or adopter to continue on maternity leave or opt to take Shared Parental Leave,” she added.

  • A parent seeking to take Shared Parental Leave must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which the child is due (or at the week in which an adopter was notified of having been matched with a child or adoption) and is still employed in the first week that Shared Parental Leave is to be take.

  • The other parent has to have worked for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 week in 13 of the 66 weeks

  • To qualify for Shared Parental Pay the parent must, as well as passing the continuity test also have earned an average salary of the lower earnings limit or more (currently £111) for the 8 weeks' prior to the 15th week before the EWC.

What employers now need to do…..

Employers should develop a policy setting out the rules and procedures for applying for and taking shared parental leave and communicate this to all employees.

Employees have a duty to inform his or her employer of their entitlement to Shared Parental Leave and must "book" the leave they wish to take, giving their employer at least 8 weeks' notice.

Once a notification for a period of leave has been received an employer may wish to consider:

  • Is the request for leave one continuous block or discontinuous blocks
  • What cover will be needed for the employee's absence
  • Will a discussion with the employee be beneficial at this time
  • Is any modification to a discontinuous leave request necessary

It is important to note an employer cannot refuse a notification for continuous leave.

If you are an employer and need help review your existing contracts of employment or want further information and advice on any aspects of employment law please call 0161 785 3500

For more information on employment law issues contact Susan.mayall@pearsonlegal.co.uk

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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