Are you ready for shared parental leave?
On 1 December 2014, a new shared parental leave (SPL) regime came into force which allows parents whose baby is due or adoption placement will take place on or after 5 April 2015, to share a maximum of 50 weeks of leave. This can be taken at any time after the two week compulsory maternity leave period. Whilst this legislation denotes a significant movement towards greater flexibility and an equalised system of family friendly employment rights, the rules governing this regime are particularly complex.
Key points to note are:
- SPL is optional – parents are not obliged to make use of their right, but be prepared as undoubtedly some parents will;
- There are three tests for eligibility for SPL (continuity of employment, responsibility and employment and earnings tests);
- Statutory Shared Parental Pay will be paid (subject to eligibility) up to a maximum of 37 weeks at a rate set by the government each year;
- Employers are entitled to receive at least eight weeks’ notice prior to an employee taking SPL;
- Employees can make up to three requests to take or change their leave arrangements (although an employer may allow more);
- Employers cannot refuse a request for a continuous period of leave, but can refuse a request for split periods of leave;
- Parents will be entitled to 20 “keeping in touch” style days while on SPL, similar to the current provisions for maternity and paternity leave;
- SPL must end no later than one year after the birth/placement of the child. Any SPL not taken by the first birthday or first anniversary of placement for adoption will be lost.
It is difficult to predict the future popularity of this new right, but the Government are predicting a less than 8% take up. This is a complex change in law which will require a change in mind-set, employers would therefore be wise to consider putting in place a policy to deal with SPL and produce guidance for managers on how to handle potential SPL requests.