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Parents Beware: Your Employment Rights Are Changing…

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Parents Beware: Your Employment Rights Are Changing…

Parents Beware: Your Employment Rights Are Changing…
April 07
22:07 2015

Alan 2With new shared parental rights coming into force this month, Alan Delaney sets out how the new rules affect employers…

What is the new right to shared parental leave?

Eligible parents of babies born or children placed for adoption after 5th April 2015, can now share existing maternity/adoption leave, if they wish.

While the first two weeks’ leave is available to mothers only, the remaining 50 weeks can be shared between the parents. Subject to eligibility, there is also an entitlement to statutory shared parental pay of 39 weeks, minus any weeks where statutory maternity pay has already been paid.

Are maternity leave and paternity leave affected?

No. The right to share parental leave is optional. Employees can take the existing leave and pay entitlements but the right to additional paternity leave has now been replaced by the new system.

What information do eligible employees have to provide?

Employees wishing to use the new right must notify their employer of eligibility to shared parental leave and provide eight weeks’ notice of each period of the leave they intend to take. Parents can give up to three separate notices of an intention to take shared parental leave. If the notice submitted is for a continuous period of time (i.e. a single block), it must be accepted. Where an employee is looking for discontinuous leave – for example, by requesting to work every other week – the employer must consider the request but has the option to refuse.

If agreement cannot be reached, a single block of leave in relation to the number of days requested will apply by default, unless the notice is withdrawn. Periods of parental leave may be shared by parents concurrently, either as overlapping leave periods or consecutively.

What about keeping in touch during shared parental leave?

Both parties can agree to the taking  of up to 20 Shared Parental Leave in Touch (SPLIT) days, similar to KIT days under the previous maternity provisions.

What is the likely impact on businesses?

While it remains to be seen how many employees will take up the option of shared parental leave, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has estimated that some 285,000 working couples are eligible to take it.

And although increased flexibility in this area may be welcomed – particularly from couples where the mother is the higher earner – the new provisions have been criticised as overly complex, with the various notice requirements likely to cause headaches for many employers.

With the new rules now in place, it is important to ensure existing policies take into account the new right to shared parental leave.

Where can I find more information?

Detailed guidance for employers – including useful template letters – is available from both ACAS and the British Government. Visit www.acas.org.uk and www.bis.gov.uk to find out more.

Alan Delaney is an employment lawyer with Maclay Murray & Spens LLP and a member of the firm’s Food and Drink team.

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