Family-friendly leave entitlements are notoriously complicated and each time they are changed they only seem to become more convoluted. “Shared Parental Leave” which is due to come into force on 1 December will give parents more flexibility over when they take leave during the first year of their child’s life/adoption and will allow them to be on leave at the same time for more than 2 weeks. However, the new entitlements are not straightforward and in this article we look at what this means for employers and how to obtain our free guide.
How do the new entitlements affect employers?
For employers, it will mean new policies, new forms, more administration and less certainty over when their employees will be in the office. Employers who currently offer enhanced maternity schemes should consider treating Shared Parental Leave in the same way. The position is currently unclear as to whether it would be sex discrimination not to do so. Some employers are already considering doing away with all enhanced schemes for these reasons.
Will it affect the current maternity, paternity and adoption leave provisions?
Shared parental leave will be an “opt-in” system so the current maternity and adoption leave provisions will apply unless the parents choose to take Shared Parental Leave. The 2 weeks ordinary paternity leave will remain available to fathers/partners, but they will no longer have the option to take additional paternity leave. This is unlikely to upset many as less than 1% of those who could have taken it, actually took it.
Who decides how the leave is allocated?
It will be up to the parents to choose how they divide up 50 weeks of Shared Parental Leave and 37 weeks of Shared Parental Pay.
The mother will still have to take 2 weeks of compulsory maternity leave.
What steps need to be taken and by whom?
The mother can choose to continue on maternity leave or serve a “curtailment notice” giving her employer 8 weeks’ notice of the end of her maternity leave. At the same time she has to serve a “notice of entitlement” to prove that she is entitled to Shared Parental Leave along with an indication of when she would like to take her part of the Shared Parental Leave.
The father/partner must also serve a notice of entitlement and intention to take Shared Parental Leave on his/her employer. These notices have to contain several details along with declarations from each parent confirming, among many other points, that they agree to the amount of leave that the other parent is taking.
Each parent has to provide their employer with details of the other parent’s employer along with standard evidence of entitlement such as birth certificate/adoption papers. Notices of entitlement may be revoked by the parent in limited situations but the effect of such a revocation on leave which has already been taken appears to be an open question at the moment.
Once the parents have firmed up their plans to take leave, they have to serve another notice on their employers (a “period of leave notice”) at least 8 weeks before the start of the first period of leave. They can ask to take leave in one block or multiple blocks of complete weeks. If they ask for one block of leave, the employer has to agree. If they ask for multiple periods of leave, the employer will have 2 weeks to agree, propose an alternative or refuse. If the employer refuses a multiple leave request, the parent has to be allowed to take their leave in one block. Parents can also ask to vary their leave requests although again an employer may refuse that request.
Keystone is delighted to be able to offer employers a free guide with flow charts showing the process parents need to follow to take Shared Parental Leave. If you would like to receive a copy, please click here.
Who is entitled to Shared Parental Leave?
The scheme is not only available to families where both parents are employed but also to those where one parent is employed and the other is classed as “economically active”, which only requires a low level of earnings.
How does Shared Parental Leave affect an individual’s rights?
Rights during leave, in redundancy situations and on return are effectively the same as during maternity leave.
When does it come into force and what should companies be doing in preparation?
Although the scheme applies to parents of children who are due to be born/adopted on or after 5 April next year, there is much work to do updating and communicating policies within the next couple of months before the scheme goes live on 1 December.
For further information or for assistance in preparing for these changes, please contact Rachel Tozer or your usual Keystone contact.
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.