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Sharing the Load: Parental Leave Proposed Changes Published

The Government has published its response to the consultation on the administration of shared parental leave and pay, announcing that it will restrict the number of times that an employee is entitled to change his or her parental leave plans, in order to create certainty for employers.

The framework for shared parental leave and flexible working is set out in the Children and Families Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament; a target implementation year of 2015 has been applied to the draft provisions.

The restriction on the amount of times an employee can change his or her leave plans is to be implemented by restricting to three the number of notifications of intention to take leave that an employer is obliged to accept from an employee. This cap will therefore take into account an original notification and two further notifications or changes to the original.

This will mean that an employer does not have to accept any more than three notifications to take shared parental leave on specific dates or changes to dates already agreed. Changes that are mutually agreed between the employer and employee will not fall within the cap, so clearly a common sense approach in respect to employer discretion will be adopted. The Government had however originally stated in the consultation that it did not intend to apply any limitation on the number of notifications of leave or ‘change requests’ as they are being termed, or indeed to limit the frequency of such notifications. 

Shared parental leave will allow eligible mothers and their partners to be absent from work to care for a child for a maximum of 52 weeks. Eligible couples could also take up to 39 weeks of shared parental pay. Couples will be able to take the leave together meaning that the mother will not necessarily return to work after the initial compulsory maternity leave (“CML”) period. Alternatively, the mother could return to work after the CML and allow her partner to take the balance of the leave, or, potentially using the change requests mentioned above, a couple could take leave in turns.

Employees will of course need to provide notice of their intention to take parental leave and will be required to opt into the new shared parental system should they wish to utilise it. In giving such notice, employees will need to provide a non-binding indication of their expected leave pattern(s). Additionally employees will need to give eight weeks’ notice of their intention to take any such periods of parental leave.

There are no proposed changes to the current notification arrangements for adoption leave and pay for employees who qualify for adoption leave and pay under the new fostering-for-adoption placement process. Instead, the Government will publish guidance to encourage employees who qualify under the new fostering-for-adoption placement process to give employers as much warning as possible.

There are a raft of other proposals in the response too numerous to list in detail, though for employers and prospective parents it should be treated as essential reading given the impact such proposals will have on the employment landscape in the coming years. 

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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