Update on shared parental leave

From April 2015, working mothers, fathers and adopters will be able to share parental leave around their child’s birth or placement.

Shared parental leave-620x375-2014

The shared parental leave legislation is part of the government’s commitment to support working families, and is included in the Children and Families Bill 2013, which received Royal Assent in March 2014.

What is shared parental leave?

  • The new system will allow working families to have more choice around how they balance their work and caring commitments.
  • Parents can choose to be at home together or to work at different times and share the care of their child.
  • Employees must give their employer eight weeks’ notice of any leave they plan to take.
  • The number of times a parent can notify their employer will be capped at three: the original notification and two further notifications of changes.
  • The cut-off point for taking shared parental leave is 52 weeks after the birth or adoption of a child.

What are the basic rules around shared parental leave?

  • It must be taken before the child’s first birthday.
  • It must be taken in complete weeks.
  • A minimum of one week must be taken.

What are the eligibility criteria for shared parental leave?

For a mother and a father to each be eligible for shared parental leave, they must have been in employment for 26 weeks at the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth or adoption and remain in that employment.

What should employers be thinking about around shared parental leave?

  • How will they communicate the new right to employees? For instance, will it be treated as an opportunity to promote other family-friendly policies?
  • What will the organisation’s attitude be to requests for leave? For instance, will it take requests on trust or will it contact the other parent’s employer?
  • What will the organisation’s response be to approaches from the other parent’s employer? (Employers will not be legally obliged to respond.)
  • Will they offer keep-in-touch days with shared parental leave to trial flexible-working arrangements?

What is next for shared parental leave?

The government has asked the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to produce a code of practice to help employers manage employees’ new right. It will also produce a non-statutory good practice guide with practical examples of managing this in the workplace. The aim is to publish this alongside the final code in early 2015.

Employer timeline

  • Late 2014: Policies should be ready.
  • February 2015: First requests can be made, eights weeks before the legislation takes effect.
  • 5 April 2015: Legislation takes effect.

Key statistics

  • 65% of respondents were unaware of the shared parental leave legislation.

Source: The Good Care Guide Parenting survey, published in June 2014.

  • 59% of respondents see shared parental leave as an opportunity to enhance their family-friendly policy for staff.

Source: Research published by Hogan Lovells in May 2014.

  • 67% of respondents are concerned about the potential complexities and increased administrative burden of shared parental leave.

Source: Research published by Norton Rose Fulbright in April 2014.

  • 70% of SME respondents were opposed to the shared parental leave system.

Source: Research published by High Performance Consultancy in December 2013.

VOX POPS: Legal opinion

“A key concern from the outset is around how resource can be managed if people take time off in less predictable chunks.”

Ed Bowyer, employment partner, Hogan Lovells

“With shared parental leave just around the corner, organisations should set in motion a plan of action to deal with the changes, sooner rather than later.”

Paul Griffin, head of employment and labour, London, Norton Rose Fulbright

“Organisations are going to have to change their thinking for working families and will need to plan staff needs in more detail.”

Julian Cox, employment partner, Fletcher Day

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“It is vitally important to remain well informed on all current and upcoming employment legislation to ensure that, as an employer, you are aware of your employees’ rights and the ways the new rules may affect your business.”

Heather Grant, employment partner, Maxwell Hodge