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Shared Parental Leave – How will it work?

As part of the government’s agenda to provide a more flexible approach to childcare and in support of their work life balance concept, in The Children and Families Act 2014 maternity and paternity rules are changing.

The parents of children whose expected week of childbirth begins on or after April 5, 2015, will have the option of sharing the statutory maternity leave and pay.

Under current rules, new mothers can take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave (2 weeks of compulsory maternity leave, 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave and the balance ‘additional maternity leave’) with maternity pay for 9 months of this. Fathers are only entitled to two weeks ‘ordinary’ paternity leave, and then an ‘additional’ 26 weeks’ paternity leave provided the mother has returned to work, and certain other criteria satisfied. The Government’s proposed new rules will allow a mother and father to share up to 50 weeks’ parental leave between them and 37 weeks’ pay.

Who will be eligible?

Shared parental leave will be available to employees with 26 weeks continuous employment at the “relevant date”.  The relevant date is the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC).   The system will also be available to adopters and intended parents under a surrogacy arrangement as well as foster parents, on a similar basis.

What notice will parents be required to give?

The employee will be required to notify the employer in writing of their intention to take a period, or periods, of shared parental leave not less than 8 weeks before the start date of leave requested.  Parents will be able to make up to three notifications/ changes to their plans to share leave with their partner provided sufficient notice (8 weeks) is given each time.

What rights will parents have during leave/ on return?

The regulations contain provisions on terms and conditions during leave, rights in relation to redundancy and rights for employees returning to work following parental leave as well as protection from detriment and dismissal which are largely similar to the current provisions in relation to maternity/ paternity/ adoption leave.

What does this mean for employers?

This is a very significant change which has considerable implications in terms of workforce planning.  Employers need to prepare for the introduction of this system and consider how policies and approaches might need to be reviewed in light of the reforms and their intended approach.

Please contact myself or any member of the Employment Services Team for further help or advice.

By Louise Addison

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