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Parental leave

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Another change on the horizon for family friendly rights comes in the form of shared parental leave where the mother and father can share the balance of maternity leave and pay after the initial set period has been taken by the mother.

The regulations are currently in draft form but are expected to come into force in October 2014. The rules will apply to adoptions as well as births where the expected week of childbirth or placement begins on or after 5th April 2015. Whilst the regulations are still in draft this is going to herald a big change for employers and there will be little time once the regulations have been finalised to get up to speed so it is important that employers understand what it is likely to mean for them.

Fathers and mothers will be entitled to a maximum of 52 weeks and 39 weeks pay between them subject to meeting the eligibility criteria which include the 26 weeks service requirement. The mother must take her compulsory leave (normally two weeks) but the rest can be shared between them within 52 weeks of the birth or adoption placement. They can take the weeks together or consecutively in blocks in multiples of a complete week.

An employee must give notice to curtail her maternity leave to her employer and both parents must give a notice of entitlement and intention to take shared parental leave to their respective employers at least eight weeks before the start date of the first period. The employees must also give a leave notice specifying the start date at least 8 weeks before, which they can subsequently vary but each employee can only issue up to three leave notices including any variations. This is presumably an attempt to minimise disruption but employers are concerned over the impact the new rules will have on their businesses.

An employer can only refuse the request if the leave notice is in discontinuous blocks of leave. There is no intention that where employees work for different employers there will be any requirement for the two employers to liaise. The forms are yet to be finalised but will be done on a self-certification type basis. Each parent will also have 20 keeping in touch days to use throughout the shared parental leave period.

Given the level of statutory maternity pay it will be interesting to review the uptake in 12 months time and whether any of those eligible will exercise this right.

Written by
Laura Warrender
10th September 2014