On 29 November 2013, the Government published its response to the consultation on Shared Parental Leave. The new scheme is likely to be in force for babies due on or after 5 April 2015.
Already some employers are objecting to the proposals which provide for a radical change in the taking of leave to care for a baby. The Institute of Directors says the new rights are a ‘nightmare for small businesses.’ They are complex; however it is also the case that the UK is lagging behind other countries in post natal leave. The changes are ‘designed to challenge the old fashioned assumption that women will always be the parent that stays at home.’ The reality may be that as with Additional Paternity Leave, few male employees take up the entitlement to extensive leave from work after their baby is born where they are the main earner.
The key elements are:
1. Women can still take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. Alternatively, qualifying parents can take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Shared Parental Pay (SPP).
2. The first two weeks of compulsory maternity leave will be reserved for the mother and the remaining 50 weeks leave and 37 weeks SPP can be shared. SPL can be taken by the parents together or at different times and must be in minimum one week blocks.
3. Each parents must give 8 weeks’ notice of taking SPL including a 2 week “discussion period” to their respective employer. At the same time they must give a non binding indication of the pattern of SPL they expect to take.
4. The Government had proposed there would be no limit on the number of requests for periods of SPL by either parent. However as a result of the consultation responses it is now intended that parents will not be able to give more than three notifications to the employer of taking/changing the dates of SPL; although employers can accept more than three notifications by agreement.
5. Mothers can change their minds about when they want to return from Maternity Leave and take SPL, until 6 weeks after the birth. This is because the Government recognises that having a baby has a significant impact and so it would be unreasonable to hold a mother to a pre birth commitment.
6. In addition to the existing maternity leave entitlement to up to 10 Keeping In Touch days, during SPL each parent will be entitled to up 20 KIT style days. The Government is considering what to call these days.
7. Employees will be entitled to return to the same job following any period of family leave (Maternity, Paternity, Adoption or Shared Parental Leave) that totals 26 weeks in aggregate.
8. Additional Paternity Leave will be abolished. The right to 2 weeks Paternity Leave will continue. The notice period to be given by employees who wish to take Paternity Leave and receive Statutory Paternity Pay will be aligned and given at the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
9. Fathers will be able to take unpaid time off work to attend two ante natal appointments.
No action is required by employers as yet and we will be tracking the publication of the draft Regulations which will flesh out how the system will work.
Please contact your usual adviser in the team if you have any queries on this or any other employment law matter. Click here to meet the team.