Earlier this year parents were given new rights, which allow them to take shared leave following the birth or adoption of their child. This change came into effect in April 2015 and entitles parents to split a total of up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay between them, provided of course they meet the requirements.
Unlike the current system, Shared Parental Leave allows parents to take more time off together. Furthermore, leave can be taken as a continuous period or at different times throughout the year.
This new system will not replace current maternity/ paternity leave, but simply offers parents another option. Therefore, the entitlement of 52 weeks leave (39 weeks paid and 13 unpaid) still stands and the mandatory two weeks’ maternity leave (four weeks for factory workers) is still compulsory. Fathers are also still entitled to two weeks of paid paternity leave, as well as further unpaid leave enabling them to attend up to two antenatal appointments. However, now fathers and partners have the option of taking their two week’s statutory leave and Shared Parental leave if they wish. Employees can choose to opt for Shared Parental Leave at any time, provided there is still some untaken maternity leave to share. They may request to take a continuous block of leave or take their shared leave in weekly blocks at any time within 12 months of the birth or adoption taking place. As an employer, you are not able to reject a request for a continuous period of Shared Parental Leave if the following conditions are met:
- The employee has been continuously employed with you for more than 26 weeks
- They have notified you of the leave he/ she wishes to take by the 15th week before they are expecting the new born or adopted child
- They satisfy the employment and earnings test – worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date of the child or placement for adoption and has average weekly earnings of £30 or more in at least 13 of those 66 weeks
However, if your employee has asked for multiple periods of shared leave, for example one month off, followed by one month at work, followed by another one month off etc., you are able to accept, reject or propose an alternative. Although, if you reject this request and are not able to make a suitable arrangement, your employee must still be allowed to take a continuous period of leave instead.
Your employee is entitled to make up to three requests for leave under these new rules. However, they must give you a ‘period of notice’ of at least eight weeks before they wish to take their leave. Once these arrangements have been confirmed your employee will then have to provide you with details of their partner’s employer, together with evidence of their entitlement. As an employer, you do not have to check this information, but it is available in case you wish to. Shared Parental Leave is now a reality and is set to further complicate the process of maternity/ paternity leave for employers. It is important that you prepare yourself for these new rules and get a system put in place to deal with such requests. You must also think about updating your company’s policies and handbooks to ensure these changes are reflected and your work force understands what their requirements are. Click here to find out more about the changes made to maternity and paternity leave and how they will affect your business.