In respect of children born or matched for adoption on or after 5 April 2015, parents can now share leave entitlement by taking Shared Parental Leave (SPL). We haven’t seen a rush of interest in SPL but it is likely to become more popular as time goes on. Therefore, if you haven’t already, we recommend employers develop a policy that sets out the rules and procedures for applying for and taking SPL as this is a confusing area. A policy will help to alleviate concern amongst both employers and employees, and ensure any applications are dealt with in a fair and consistent manner.
What does this mean?
Most mothers can take up to 52 weeks’ leave and have statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks. Eligible mothers and their partners now have the right to share the usual maternity or adoption leave between them. Essentially the new law provides more flexibility to parents when it comes to the care of their child.
Parents can take leave together or successively, although it must be taken before the child’s first birthday.
SPL – the key points
- A parent has to opt in to SPL and does this by giving notice to their employer at least 8 weeks before the first period of leave is planned.
- Parents can now decide to share up to 50 weeks’ of leave between them. So, if a mother wants to return to work, her remaining leave can be taken by her partner and there is flexibility in how this can be arranged.
- Parents can choose to take periods of leave together or consecutively, provided they don’t exceed the total leave available. They can decide, for example, to spend time together with their new baby and then take time away from work separately after that.
- The right to 90% pay for mothers for the first six weeks of maternity leave does not apply to SPL.
- Employers don’t have to pay more than statutory maternity pay during SPL. Statutory shared parental pay is £139.58 per week or 90% of the employees average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
- Leave can be taken in one go, or in chunks separated by periods of work. There is the option for each parent to stop and start parental leave up to three times (or more should their employer allow) which could mean key employees are still available to continue project work or assist in particularly busy periods.
What to do now
- Be ready to discuss SPL with employees who want to consider how to structure their leave.
- If you already pay enhanced maternity pay, consider whether you also want to enhance pay for shared parental leave.
- Consider updates to your maternity/family policies so that your employees know what to expect. Preferably employers should develop a policy that sets out the rules and procedures for applying for and taking SPL.
Healys Employment Team will shortly be circulating a template for a Shared Parental Leave policy. If you already have maternity/family policies that cover this you will find this useful to check with your existing policies.
For more information and advice on this topic or about the other services we offer, contact one of the team on 020 7822 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.