A new system of shared parental leave (SPL) will apply to parents of babies due from 5 April 2015. This will allow new parents to share childcare responsibility and time off from work.
A new mother will still have to take two weeks compulsory maternity leave immediately after the birth and she can still choose to take up to a further 50 weeks as maternity leave. However, from April 2015 the remaining 50 weeks does not have to all be taken by the mother and is available for sharing between both parents as SPL.
This means that the mother can decide to bring her maternity leave to an end and hand over her unused leave allowance to the father. Doing so does not necessarily mean that the father takes all of the unused leave though, because the couple can choose to take the leave in blocks and switch it back and forth between the two of them. They could also choose to take some of it at the same time.
This could be difficult for employers to manage.
My practical tips to help employers prepare for the changes include:
- update your policies and ensure managers are trained on the changes;
- for those who pay enhanced maternity pay, consider whether this will be offered to fathers taking shared parental leave;
- employers can refuse a request for discontinuous periods of leave. Decide in what circumstances you might do this and how such decisions could be justified;
- decide what evidence of entitlement to leave you will require;
- consider how you will cover an employee’s absence. Employees will have to give eight weeks’ notice before taking any shared parental leave, which is designed to give employers time to plan; and
- bear in mind that employees who take SPL have the right to return to the same job or, where more than 26 weeks leave has been taken, the same or similar job.
Article first published in the Kent Messenger September 2014