Employment Review: January 2015 – Shared Parental Leave
1 December 2014 was an important milestone date for family-friendly employment rights with the new Shared Parental Leave (SPL) provisions officially coming into force under the Children and Families Act 2014.
The new SPL regime represents a huge step forward for prospective parents whose child is due to be born on or after 5 April 2015. Parents will be able to share up to 50 weeks parental leave between them rather than sticking to the current set maternity and paternity leave allowances. SPL is intended to allow parents greater flexibility in childcare during the first year, and allows parents to take leave either simultaneously and/or individually in discontinuous blocks.
The current rules on maternity and paternity leave will remain the same and the new SPL rules will be implemented to run in parallel to the current ‘traditional’ provisions.
The new SPL regime is available to the child’s mother and father, or the mother’s spouse, partner or civil partner and allows the untaken balance of a mother’s maternity leave and pay entitlement, which totals 52 weeks leave and 39 weeks pay, to be shared by both parents as SPL and pay. Under the new SPL rules a mother must still take a minimum of two weeks compulsory maternity leave. As such, the maximum amount of SPL available to parents to share is 50 weeks, 37 of which can be paid.
SPL may be taken from the date the child is born until any time before the child’s first birthday and the right to SPL will arise when an eligible mother brings her maternity leave to an end early, either by returning to work early or giving a “curtailment notice” to her employer indicating that she intends to end her maternity leave early at some future date.
The new system is set to provide a great deal more flexibility for parents and, in particular, may result in fathers taking more time off work to look after new babies than we are used to. It will also open up opportunities for mothers to return to their careers earlier, without having to place a new baby in childcare.
Employers should now review their existing policies on maternity and paternity leave (as well as policies relating to adoption leave) and consider introducing a new policy to cover the SPL regime which will begin to take direct effect on 5 April 2015. Employers offering enhanced maternity options to their employees must also consider whether or not to extend these additional benefits to those parents wishing to opt for SPL.
The rules surrounding the SPL regime are complex and employers should take the opportunity in advance of 5 April 2015 to familiarise themselves with the new rules, as well as providing training for managers who may be approached by members of their team to discuss SPL.
This is only a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist advice should be sought from a member of Freeths Employment Team in relation to any queries.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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