Shared Parental Leave – final regulations

Posted by Ruth Christy on
It's been a long time coming, but some of the final regulations relating to Shared Parental Leave (SPL) have now been laid before Parliament, giving us more detail on the new regime. The regulations are complex and employers will need to change most, if not all, of their family friendly policies as a result. In addition, with so many different requirements concerning eligibility and notification, most employers will want to adopt standard forms to ensure all the necessary information and declarations are included.

The new regime applies to parents of a child who is placed for adoption, or whose expected week of birth begins, on or after 5 April 2015. Maternity/adoption leave begins as normal, but the basis of SPL for either parent (subject to very detailed eligibility requirements) is that the mother/adopter ('M/A') elects to end maternity/adoption leave or pay early by returning to work or giving notice of 'curtailment' of the leave.

SPL can be shared, if both parents are entitled, up to a combined total of 52 weeks, less whatever leave or pay has already been taken. They can take it separately (discontinuous periods if the employer agrees) or simultaneously.

The other parent, 'P' for birth or 'AP' for adoption, can be the father of the child or M/A's spouse, civil partner, or partner who lives with M/A and the child in an enduring family relationship (but who is not a relative). P/AP could in theory take SPL while M/A is still on maternity/adoption leave, provided its end date is properly notified. Ordinary paternity leave (2 weeks) remains, but SPL replaces additional paternity leave.

The main notifications required are:

  • A 'leave curtailment notice' to end M/A's leave;
  • 'Notice of entitlement and intention to take SPL', in response to which the employer can request certain evidence of entitlement, or alternatively a 'declaration of consent and entitlement' by M/A that their partner has given such a notice to their employer and M/A consents to the leave their partner intends to take; 
  • A 'period of leave notice'; and, where applicable, 
  • Notification and evidential requirements relating to Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)

There are also special rules on varying and cancelling notified leave dates, with a limit on 3 notices of leave (including the initial notice and any variations). If leave is requested in a continuous block, it can't be refused. Discontinuous blocks can be refused but if arranged carefully the employee may be able achieve up to three discontinuous periods anyway.

Like KIT days, an employee can also work up to 20 days without bringing SPL to an end. There is protection with regard to redundancy, detriment and unfair dismissal as well as the right to return to the same job depending on the leave that has been taken.

Employers will need to consider:

  • Changes to policies and/or staff handbooks
  • Developing template forms
  • Ensuring relevant staff are trained on the new provisions
  • The most advantageous way of responding to requests for interrupted blocks of leave, which may be disruptive to the business
  • Whether to enhance ShPP if maternity pay is currently enhanced (which brings further issues of avoiding discrimination in relation to both parents)
  • Ensuring non-pay benefits and the right to return are handled properly

Our September Breakfast Clubs will be considering these key points that employers will need to address with the introduction of shared parental leave. For further details see the Events page.

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Ruth provides guidance for clients and keeps them up to date with the fast pace of change in employment law.

Ruth Christy
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