Shared parental leave – Employers should be aware of how the regulations will impact on their business

The additional paternity leave scheme introduced in April 2011, which allows a child’s father or a mother’s partner to take up to 26 weeks’ leave has been abolished from 5 April 2015 and effectively replaced by share parental leave (SPL). SPL is a new type of family leave available to parents of babies due or children placed for adoption from 5 April 2015.

SPL is optional for parents and is intended to give new parents greater flexibility. SPL allows for up to a combined maximum of 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay to be shared by the parents who can choose to take this leave together or independently of one another. The current two-week statutory paternity leave provisions will remain available, meaning that parents can still choose to take statutory paternity leave following the birth or adoption placement.

SPL - steps to be taken by employees

  1. Give notice to end maternity leave – the mother can end maternity leave by serving a curtailment notice to end maternity leave. The notice must be given at least 8 weeks before the maternity leave ends. The remaining maternity leave can be shared with the mother’s partner.
  2. Give notice of intention to take SPL – employees must provide notice of their intention to take SPL. This notice should include both partner’s details, maternity leave taken to date, balance of leave remaining, DOB of child and a declaration that both parties qualify for SPL and shared parental pay.
  3. Give 8 weeks’ notice before taking SPL – employees can give their employer up to 3 separate notices to take leave. Each notice can be for a block of leave (for a minimum period of 1 week). The notice must indicate whether it is continuous or discontinuous leave.

SPL - steps to be taken by employers

  1. Decide whether pay should be enhanced during SPL – employers wishing to support culture change need to bear in mind the evidence suggesting that levels of take-up of SPL will largely be determined by whether statutory pay is enhanced. There is nothing in the legislation that states that SPL should be enhanced even if the organisation enhances maternity pay.
  2. Ensure there is a user-friendly practical policy in place – the SPL regime is a complex one and it will be a challenge to draft a policy for this as a number of notices will be needed to cover different eventualities and existing policies will need to be updated and distinguished from SPL.
  3. Manage both short-term and long term cover required – an employee is entitled to take 3 separate periods of SPL by giving 3 separate notices. This can cause problems for employers in respect of short-term cover and ensuring that requests for discontinuous leave are dealt with consistently. Training and processes will need to be in place to ensure that notices are dealt with appropriately so that the risk of discrimination claims is minimised.

Qualifying employees have the legal right to choose to take SPL, to determine when they take it and to not suffer any detriment for using or seeking to use SPL. Workplace cultures and practices will vary and handling the SPL process should fit into usual workplace practice.Employers will need to communicate effectively with employees using SPL to try and agree arrangements and periods of leave which suit both the organisation and the employee’s postnatal plans.

If you would like to discuss shared parental leave and the implications for your business, please contact a member of the Employment team