Will Employers be left holding the baby?

Sarah-Varani-150x150Shared Parental Leave and pay will be available for employees with babies due on or after 5 April 2015, and for employees who are adopting where the child is placed for adoption on or after that date. This follows the new right for fathers and partners to take time off to attend antenatal appointments which came in on 1 October.

Shared Parental Leave is intended to give working families more flexibility and choices over when and who takes leave during the first year of their child’s life or adoption, allowing parents to be off together if they wish.

BIS estimates that around 285,000 working couples will be eligible for Shared Parental Leave from April but believes that only between 2% and 6% of fathers will take up the new leave rights.

However, Shared Parental Leave will not replace current maternity, adoption and statutory paternity leave. The two week compulsory maternity leave period immediately following the birth of a child or adoption placement will also remain in place along with the current two weeks statutory paternity leave, meaning that parents can still choose to take leave following a birth or adoption placement in line with the current system. This effectively allows fathers or partners can take both the two weeks statutory paternity leave and Shared Parental Leave if they wish.

The Additional Paternity Leave scheme introduced in 2011, which allows the child’s father or the mother’s partner to take up to 26 weeks’ leave, will be abolished from 5 April 2015. If expectant fathers or partners wish to take a longer period of family leave, they would need to do so via the new Shared Parental Leave regime.

This Shared Parental Leave entitlement is for a total of 50 weeks, 37 weeks of which parents will be entitled to receive statutory Shared Parental Pay for and which can be shared between them. Shared Parental Leave may be taken at any time within the period which begins on the date the child is born/date of the placement and ends 52 weeks after that date.

Unlike the current maternity and adoption leave system, Shared Parental Leave can be taken either as a continuous period or at different times throughout the year following the baby’s birth, in multiples of complete weeks. An employee taking Shared Parental Leave can split their leave to take up to 3 separate blocks instead of taking it all in one go if they wish, even if they aren’t sharing the leave with their partner.

An employer cannot refuse a request for a single continuous period of Shared Parental Leave. However, if an employer receives a request for discontinuous/multiple periods of Shared Parental Leave, it may decide to agree to the request, propose an alternative or refuse the request. An employee must not be pressurised into changing his or her request and they must not suffer detrimental treatment should they not agree to any modifications suggested by the employer. If the employer refuses a multiple leave request, the employee must still be allowed to take Shared Parental Leave for a continuous period (single block) of leave instead.

If the mother’s partner wishes to start a period of shared parental leave while the mother is still on maternity leave, the mother has to have submitted a notice stating when her maternity leave will end and her partner has to have also complied with his or her notification obligations too.

Employees who qualify to receive statutory shared parental pay while on shared parental leave will be paid £139.58 per week from 5 April 2015 (increasing from £138.18 per week before 5 April 2015), or at 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings, if this figure is lower than the set weekly rate.

If all of this leaves you feeling like a newborn needing your comforter then Conciliation service Acas, has drawn up a guide to the rules and there is a handy tool on the following link to find out if an employee can get maternity, paternity or shared parental leave and how much pay they get if they take the leave.

Read more here.