Posted by Unum Team on 5 March 2015
From 5th April 2015, parents will get more flexibility in deciding who will take time off to look after their new baby or adopted child.
Shared parental leave (SPL) will enable mothers to share their maternity leave and pay with their partners.
But while it’s only a couple of months until the new rules are in place, many employers only have an overview of the regulations and have plenty of unanswered questions.
Employers need to make sure they’re up to speed on what the new rules mean for their business, and put an SPL policy in place to ensure all requests are dealt with consistently.
The scheme is quite complex; here are a few things you might not be aware of:
1) Fathers can’t take SPL unless the mother is also in employment
For a father to be able to take extended leave, he must qualify for statutory paternity pay and have a partner who qualifies for statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance.
An employee needs to have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the due date to be eligible.
Agency workers and self-employed parents are not entitled to SPL.
2) It’s not just for the biological parents
In most cases SPL will be taken by the child’s biological mother and father, but it could also apply to the mother’s spouse, partner or civil partner. Partner is defined as someone who lives with the mother in an ‘enduring family relationship’ but is not the mother’s child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, nephew or niece.
This means there could end up being more than one eligible partner – for example, the father and a new partner. If this is the case, it’s down to the mother to elect the partner with whom she will share parental leave.
Couples who have adopted a child are also eligible for SPL.
3) It doesn’t have to be taken in one continuous block
Unlike maternity leave, SPL can be taken in separate blocks. Each partner has the right to take three blocks, with a minimum of a week off at a time. You can’t force an eligible employee to take their leave in one block, but if they request discontinuous leave such as one week on, one week off, you don’t have to agree to this.
Whatever the planned leave, it must be taken within 52 weeks of the birth or adoption. If the full entitlement has not been taken by this time it will be lost.
4) The mother and partner can be off at the same time
The people caring for their child can choose to be off work at the same time as long as the total period of leave does not exceed 52 weeks. This could have implications for businesses where both parents work for the same employer.
The mother must give at least eight weeks’ written notice to cut short her maternity leave if shared leave is planned. If this notice is given before the baby is born it can be revoked up to six weeks after the birth.
5) Dads are still entitled to paternity leave
Fathers will still be able to take two weeks’ paid ordinary paternity leave. This can be used any time within 56 days of the baby’s birth. It can be taken in a single block of one or two weeks.
The two-week compulsory maternity period immediately following the birth will also remain in place for mothers.
If you need advice on this, then we can help
27 Harvine Walk, Norton, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY8 3BQ
Tel: 01384 823835