The first women who will benefit from shared parental leave will shortly be informing their employers about their pregnancy and asking questions about the new right.
Shared parental leave applies in relation to babies due on or after 5 April 2015. Under the new right, the mother of a new baby will be able to convert statutory maternity leave and pay into shared parental leave (ShPL) and shared parental pay (ShPP). ShPL and ShPP will also be available to adoptive parents and intended parents through surrogacy. This new type of leave and pay will be available for the two parents to share, provided they satisfy the eligibility test. Parents will decide between them how much leave each will take, and whether to take time off in turns or together.
The detail and mechanics of the new regime were set out in the Government’s consultation response and the key elements are as follows:
- When opting in to the ShPL system, employees will need to give a non-binding indication at the outset of when they expect to take the leave.
- Employees will be required to give 8 weeks notice to take specific periods of leave, or to change a previous notification. There will be cap of 3 on such notifications unless both employer and employee agree by mutual consent that a request will not count towards the cap. This means employees will be able to take a maximum of 3 blocks of leave unless an institution agrees to more.
- Parents will be able to have up to 20 ‘keeping in touch’ days at work per parent whilst on ShPL.
- Employees who take ShPL will have the right to return to the same job when returning from periods of statutory leave that totals 26 weeks or less in aggregate, even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks.
What Do You Need to Do?
As a business owner you will need to amend your policies to allow for the more flexible approach to flexible working and to reflect the fact that all employees with sufficient qualifying service will be able to make requests and also to reflect the new, and complicated, detail of ShPL and ShPP.
Key questions you will need to answer include:
- Who is eligible for shared parental leave and pay?
- How much shared parental leave can employees take and when?
- When must employees notify their intention to take shared parental leave?
- Will there be “KIT” days for employees during shared parental leave?
- What rights will employees have during shared parental leave and will they be entitled to return to the same job?
- What template forms you will use
- How you will respond to requests for interrupted blocks of leave, which may be disruptive to the business
- How you will handle non-pay benefits and the right to return to work