Shared parental leave: The details
'Shared parental leave' is the name for a new system of maternity and paternity leave with increased flexibility which will be implemented in 2015. Consultation on this began way back in 2011 with the Modern Workplaces Consultation, and the Government's plans were revealed over a year ago.
Since then the proposals have been debated in the Children and Families Bill, but the Government has now revealed further practical details on how the new system will operate.
The basis for Shared Parental Leave (SPL) will still be 52 weeks' maternity (or adoption) leave with 39 weeks' pay; and 2 weeks' paternity leave and pay (additional paternity leave will be abolished). From 2015, a mother/adopter whose partner is working could, where they both meet eligibility requirements, elect to end maternity/adoption leave early, and begin a period of SPL.
During SPL the leave could be shared between the parents as they see fit – either one after the other (over several periods of leave if the employer agrees) or simultaneously.
The partner could even take SPL while the mother/adopter is still on maternity/adoption leave, provided its end date has been specified. Whatever statutory pay remains when the mother/adopter ends maternity/adoption leave would convert into statutory SPL pay.
The main details announced by the Government last week are that:
- Mothers who have notified their employer before giving birth of their maternity leave end date will have up to six weeks after the birth to change their minds;
- The information to be provided for SPL will be similar to that for additional paternity leave;
- Employees will have to give a non-binding indication of their expected pattern of leave when notifying that they want to take SPL, subject to a minimum formal notice 8 weeks before the leave. The 8 weeks' notice includes 2 weeks to discuss the arrangements;
- Employees will only be able to request an SPL period (or change it) 3 times, unless mutually agreed with the employer;
- The cut off for taking any SPL will be 52 weeks after the child's birth;
- Both parents will each be able to have up to 20 'KIT-style' days (under a new name) during SPL. A mother will also still have up to 10 KIT (Keeping In Touch) days during maternity leave;
- Employees will have the right to return to the same job if the total leave they have taken (whether adoption/maternity/paternity or SPL) is 26 weeks or less, even if not taken in a continuous block. After that, they will have the right to return to the same job or a similar job if not reasonably practicable;
- Fathers will have to notify employers of their intention both to take paternity leave, and to receive statutory paternity pay, by the same date: the 15th week before the Expected Week of Confinement (EWC) (or as soon as reasonably practicable if there are particular difficulties). Currently there is one notification date for paternity leave and another for paternity pay.
As a reminder, the new rules will also:
- Create a right for a father or mother's partner to attend 2 ante-natal appointments (unpaid), or adoption appointments for adopters;
- Align adoption leave and pay with maternity leave and pay, so that no qualifying service is necessary for leave; and where eligible, the first 6 weeks of pay are at 90% of salary; and
- Allow intended parents of surrogate babies to be eligible for adoption leave and pay, and to attend 2 ante-natal appointments (unpaid).
To ensure the provisions are implemented in 2015, draft regulations will be published before the Children and Families Bill has received Royal Assent.