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New Right to Shared Parental Leave

The new Shared Parental Leave (SPL) right is touted as the final piece in the Coalition’s family friendly policy puzzle. This right which is due to come into force on 1 December will for the first time enable parents and adopters to share statutory leave and pay after the birth of their baby or after having adopted their child, providing they meet the eligibility criteria. The new system will be applicable to parents whose babies are due from 5 April 2015.

For health and safety reasons, mothers will still be required to take two weeks compulsory maternity leave, but the remaining 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared between parents. They will have the choice of taking leave at the same time and/or in turns to care for their child. Although the employer cannot refuse leave that can and may be taken in a continuous period, they are however entitled to refuse discontinuous periods of leave.

The eligibility criteria involves a two-step process along with the mother being required to establish that she is entitled to maternity or adoption leave, statutory maternity or adoption pay, or maternity allowance, in addition to demonstrating that she will be sharing the main responsibility for caring for the child with the father or partner.

The two-step process which must be followed by parents seeking to take SPL is as follows:

Step 1 – Continuity test:

·         The parent seeking to take SPL must have been employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC); or

·         At the week in which an adopter was notified of having been matched with a child for adoption; and

·         The other parent must also have been employed for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the EWC and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 a week in 13 of the 66 weeks.

Step 2 – Individual eligibility for pay:

·         Earn an average salary of the lower earnings limit or more (currently £111 per week) for the 8 weeks’ prior to the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC).

From January 2015 qualifying employees will be able to submit their notice of eligibility and inform their employers of their intention to take SPL.  The notice that each parent is required to give to their employer must include:

  • How much leave is available;
  • How much leave they are entitled to take;
  • How much leave they expect to take it.

This week ACAS published guidance to help employers understand their legal requirements, which also includes a best practice guide and a summary process.

Conclusion

Unquestionably flexibility for families means complexity for employers. The administrative burden of the new system will be a concern for most employers. Nonetheless they need to get ready for the change and familiarise themselves with the leave notification arrangements in order to be able to respond to requests, as these will start rolling in soon. So now is certainly a good time for employers to update their handbooks and policies in advance of the changes going live.

As always if I can provide you with any further assistance on queries relating to employee wage slips or any other issue, please do not hesitate to contact me for a free consultation on 0113 350 4030 or samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk.


Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here. 

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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