On 1st December 2014, the new Shared Parental Leave legislation came into force. The government's guidance for employers weighs in at a hefty 55 pages, and it's a heavy-going read! So we've summarised this into 10 Q&As to give you the essential facts about this new piece of employment law.
1. When does it come into effect?
Eligible parents who have a baby or adopt a child on or after 5th April 2015 in England, Scotland and Wales can apply to take Shared Parental Leave.
2. What is Shared Parental Leave?
It's a new form of leave which both parents can take during the first year after their child's birth or adoption. It replaces the current entitlement to 'Additional Paternity Leave'. It is designed to give parents more flexibility in how to share the care of their child in that first year. Parents will be able to share a pot of leave, and can decide to be off work at the same time and/or take it in turns to have periods of leave to look after the child.
3. How does it work?
Eligible mothers can volunteer to end their maternity/adoption leave early to create Shared Parental Leave which they can share with the child's father or their partner. When the mother ends her maternity/adoption leave early, the remainder of her 52 weeks leave can then be taken as Shared Parental Leave (SPL).
4. Is it paid?
It depends on how much statutory maternity / adoption pay the mother has received. If the mother ends her maternity/adoption leave before she has received her full 39 weeks of statutory maternity / adoption pay, the remainder of her pay can be taken as Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). ShPP payments can be partly recovered from HMRC in the same way as Statutory Maternity Pay.
5. Who is eligible to take Shared Parental Leave?
Only employees can take Shared Parental Leave. Agency workers and self-employed workers are not entitled to take it. Employees need to have worked for you for at least 26 weeks (at the end of the 15th week before the child's expected due date / adoption matching date) in order to be eligible. They must also meet a few other technical eligibility requirements.
6. How much Shared Parental Leave can be taken?
If an employee is eligible and they or their partner end their maternity or adoption leave and pay (or Maternity Allowance) early, then they and/or their partner can take the rest of the 52 weeks of leave (up to a maximum of 50 weeks) as Shared Parental Leave. The mother and her partner can decide between them how much of the Shared Parental Leave each of them is going to take. They can take the leave at the same time or separately.
7. Does it have to be taken in one continuous block like maternity leave?
No. Shared Parental Leave may be taken in a single continuous block, or in up to 3 smaller blocks of leave (a minimum of a week at a time) with the employee returning to work in between. If an employee applies to take multiple blocks of leave, you have the right to refuse their request and ask them to take it as a single block of leave instead.
8. What is the process for requesting Shared Parental Leave?
The mother first needs to cut short her maternity or adoption leave by either returning to work or giving notice that she intends to return to work early. Then your employee needs to notify you of their entitlement to Shared Parental Leave and make a signed declaration. Finally, the employee needs to give you a written 'booking notice' explaining when they intend to take the leave. This notice must be given to you at least eight weeks before the leave is due to begin.
9. Is the existing maternity / paternity legislation being changed as a result of this new law?
The existing entitlements for maternity leave and 'ordinary' paternity leave (i.e. 2 weeks leave) remain unchanged. However, 'additional' paternity leave will no longer be available - Shared Parental Leave will replace this entitlement.
10. Where can I find out more information?
You can download the full government guidance on Shared Parental Leave here.
Written by Stuart Hearn, CEO, OneTouchTeam