Newsflash: Shared parental leave and guidance

shared parental leave - man with childWhat do we already know?

In our March 2014 Newsletter Government reforms (2): Shared parental leave we updated you on the new shared parental leave and pay regime which will come into force on 1 December 2014. This will be available in respect of babies due on or after 5 April 2015 and children placed for adoption on or after that date.

In essence, shared parental leave will allow eligible mothers and their partners to share the right to be absent from work to care for a child for up to 52 weeks in total (with shared parental pay for 39 of those weeks). The basics are:

  • The mother of a new baby will be able to convert statutory maternity leave and pay into shared parental leave (SPL) and shared parental pay (SPP).
  • This will be available for the two parents to share, provided they satisfy the eligibility test.
  • The parents will decide between them how much SPL each will take, and whether to take time off in turn or simultaneously.
  • An employer will have to take on trust what one parent tells it about the amount of SPL available to him/her.
  • If the mother does not wish to share her entitlement with her partner, she can take ordinary maternity leave in the way currently available.

What’s new?

To help employers prepare for the new law the Government have published an Employers’ Technical Guide to Shared Parental Leave and Pay, available here, to provide technical guidance for employers who think their employee(s) may be eligible.

This guidance provides a summary of the legislation and covers the following areas:

  • Eligibility criteria;
  • Ending maternity or adoption leave and pay to create shared parental leave and pay;
  • Knowing whether your employee qualifies for shared parental leave and pay;
  • Explaining how much shared parental leave and pay can be taken;
  • Arrangements for “booking” shared parental leave and pay;
  • Employees who change their shared parental leave plans;
  • When shared parental leave and pay can be taken; and
  • Frequently Asked Questions on shared parental leave and pay.

What should you be doing right now?

It is critical that you review and update your maternity and paternity policies and procedures in time for the new rules coming into force on 1 December.

Equally important is that you review any enhanced maternity pay policy you may have, to decide whether you are also going to offer it to the partner of a mother who takes SPL and, if not, whether you have thought through the sex discrimination risks of not doing so.

We would strongly recommend that you contact us for advice on any enhanced maternity pay policy you may have, and how it needs to be reviewed at this time.