A new employment right to “share” parental leave is available to parents with babies due on or after 5 April 2015.
Whilst it’s designed to allow couples greater freedom to decide how to take their family-friendly leave, if triggered by an employee will be an administrative and operational headache for many businesses.
Shared parental leave enables mothers to;
a) commit to ending their maternity leave and pay at a future date, and to share the untaken balance of leave and pay as shared parental leave with their partner;
b) to return to work early from maternity leave and opt in to shared parental leave and pay at a later date.
Shared parental leave is also available to adoptive parents.
Shared parental leave must be taken in blocks of at least one week. Individuals can request to take shared parental leave in one continuous block (in which case the organisation is required to accept the request as long as the employee meets the eligibility and notice requirements), or as a number of discontinuous blocks of leave (in which case the employee needs the organisation’s agreement). A maximum of three requests for leave per pregnancy can normally be made by each parent.
To be able to take shared parental leave, employees and their partners must meet various eligibility requirements and have complied with the relevant curtailment, notice and evidence requirements.
For example, to be eligible to take shared parental leave, employees must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment with the organisation ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth and remain in continuous employment with the organisation until the week before any period of shared parental leave that they are planning to take.
The notices that employees must give to their employer to be able to take shared parental leave are complicated and made up of three elements which are;
- a “leave curtailment notice” from the mother setting out when she proposes to end her maternity leave (unless the mother has already returned to work from maternity leave);
- a “notice of entitlement and intention” from the mother or partner giving an initial, non-binding indication of each period of shared parental leave that he/she is requesting;
- a “period of leave notice” providing the organisation with a written notice setting out the start and end dates of each period of shared parental leave that he/she is requesting.
While there are minimum notice periods required by law, employees should be encouraged to inform the organisation of their intentions about taking shared parental leave as early as possible to allow full consideration.
If you have any questions regarding the new right, please do not hesitate to contact summ.it.
For clients with a summ.it Employee Handbook, we will be sending out updates within the next few weeks.