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Shared Parental Leave

What is it?

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is a new right that will enable eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed.

The Government intends that the new system will allow fathers to play a greater role in raising their child; help mothers return to work when they want to without losing leave entitlement and allow mothers to return to work temporarily for a busy period or an important project.

The regulations are currently before Parliament but are due to come into force on 1 December 2014.The option to use the new Shared Parental Leave rights will apply for parents who meet the eligibility criteria, where a baby is due to be born on or after 5 April 2015 or for children who are placed for adoption on or after that date. Therefore employers could begin to receive notice of eligibility and the intention to take Shared Parental Leave from qualifying employees from January 2015.

How does this impact on current maternity and Paternity regulations?

Maternity Leave:

  • Women will continue to be entitled to take 26 weeks’ ordinary leave and 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave as they do now.
  • The mother must take two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave immediately following the birth of the child, which may not be shared with the father.
  • Women’s rights during maternity leave will remain the same
  • Statutory maternity pay entitlements will remain the same (52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of maternity pay or maternity allowance).
  • Pregnant women will still be entitled to reasonable time off with pay for antenatal care.
  • As from 1st October 2014, fathers and partners of pregnant women are entitled to unpaid time off to attend two ante-natal appointments.

The key change is that women can elect to bring maternity leave to an end early and opt-in to a period of Shared Parental Leave and pay instead.

Paternity Leave

  • The two week period of ordinary paternity leave (paid at the statutory rate) will continue to be available.
  • Ordinary paternity leave must be taken during the eight weeks following the birth of the child (but is not compulsory) and may not be shared with the mother.

The key change is that additional paternity leave and additional statutory paternity pay will be abolished and replaced with Shared Parental Leave and pay.

How will Shared Parental Leave work?

Currently, the Statutory Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014 have been published but are still in draft form. However it is envisaged that the new system will be as follows:

Eligibility criteria for Shared Parental Leave

If a woman decides not to take her full maternity leave entitlement, she and the father will be able to opt in to Shared Parental Leave. Both parents must meet a set of eligibility criteria, which are:

  • They must have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
  • They must remain continuously employed until the first week that Shared Parental Leave starts.
  • They already have or expect to have main responsibility for caring for the child.
  • The mother is entitled to statutory maternity leave.
  • The mother has curtailed her entitlement to maternity leave or has returned to work.
  • They have provided their employers with notice of entitlement and intention to take Shared Parental Leave (see below).
  • They have provided any evidence requested by their employers within 14 days of the request. This may include a copy of the birth certificate, or a declaration from the parents confirming the date and place of the child’s birth if the birth certificate is not yet available and the name and address of the other parent’s employer.
  • They have given the employer a period of leave notice (see below).

There will be no need or requirement for employers to contact one another to make checks on the eligibility criteria or declarations as the system is based on ‘self-certification’.

How will eligibility be established?

The parents intending to take Shared Parental Leave will be required to follow a two step process to establish eligibility.

Step 1 – Continuity Test

As stated above, a parent seeking to take Shared Parental Leave must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which the child is due (or at the week that the adopter has been notified of having been matched with a child for adoption) and is still employed in the first week that Shared Parental Leave is to be taken.

The other parent has to have worked for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 a week in 13 of the 66 weeks.

Step 2 – Individual eligibility for pay

To qualify for Shared Parental Pay the mother must, as well as passing the continuity test, also have earned an average salary of the lower earnings limit or more (currently £111) for the 8 weeks’ prior to the 15th week before EWC.

Shared Parental Leave will also be available to a father where the mother works, but does not qualify for statutory maternity leave, such as where the mother is self-employed. Where the mother has received statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance during a period of not working, the father can still qualify for Shared Parental Leave if this maternity pay period is ended early. This only applies if the father is employed and meets the other eligibility criteria as set out above. The mother in this situation is not able to take Shared Parental Leave.

How much Shared Parental Leave is available?

The maximum amount of leave that can be shared between parents is 50 weeks. (52 weeks minus the 2 week compulsory maternity leave for the mother). The leave can be taken during the 12 months following the birth of the child, but cannot begin earlier than two weeks following the child’s birth.

Shared Parental Leave only becomes available once the mother has given notice to end her entitlement to maternity leave. This means that the portion of maternity leave which is untaken by the mother will be converted into Shared Parental Leave.

The maximum amount of Shared Parental Pay that is available to share between parents is 37 weeks (39 weeks minus 2 weeks’ maternity pay taken by the mother during the first 2 weeks compulsory maternity leave).

Example scenarios

Scenario 1: A simple example:
Mum takes 26 weeks’ maternity leave and pay and converts the rest into Shared Parental Leave.
Dad takes 10 weeks’ Shared Parental Leave and pay while Mum goes back to work. Dad then goes back to work.
Mum takes remaining 16 weeks’ Shared Parental leave and the remaining 3 weeks’ Shared Parental Pay at that point.

This means that in total, Mum has had 42 weeks’ leave and 29 weeks pay, while Dad has taken 10 weeks leave and pay.

Scenario 2: An example of where Mum and Dad want to take time off together to care for the new baby. The right to take Shared Parental Leave is only triggered once Mum has returned or indicated an intention to return to work on a specified date leave Dad eligible to take Shared Parental Leave consecutively with the mother.
Mum takes 27 weeks’ maternity leave. She commits at the outset to end her maternity leave after 27 weeks, meaning 25 weeks’ Shared Parental Leave and 12 weeks’ Shared Parental Pay is available for Dad.
At the same time, Dad takes 2 weeks’ Ordinary Paternity Leave when the baby is born, then goes onto 25 weeks’ Shared Parental Leave and 12 weeks’ Shared Parental pay.

Both parents return to work after week 27. This means that Mum has had 27 weeks’ leave and pay, while dad has taken 25 weeks’ leave and 12 weeks’ pay.

Scenario 3: A more complicated example:
Mum takes first 10 weeks’ maternity leave and pay. She then commits to going back to work at week 22. She takes another 12 weeks’ maternity leave and pay. By doing so, she frees up 30 weeks to be taken as Shared Parental Leave and 17 weeks’ of Shared Parental Pay.
Dad takes 12 weeks of leave and pay to coincide with weeks 11 to 22 of Mum’s maternity leave.
Dad then takes a further 8 weeks’ leave and the last 5 weeks of pay while Mum returns to work. Dad then returns to work.
Mum then takes the final 10 weeks’ of Shared Parental Leave.

In total, Mum has taken 32 weeks’ leave and 22 weeks’ pay, while Dad has taken 20 weeks’ leave and 17 weeks’ pay.

How do employers receive notice of the intention to take Shared Parental Leave?

  • An employee opting for Shared Parental Leave must notify his or her employer of their entitlement to Shared Parental Leave and must “book” the leave they wish to take, giving their employer at least 8 weeks’ notice.
  • Each eligible employee can give their employer up to 3 separate notices. Each notice can be for a block of leave (the minimum period of leave must be one week), or the notice may be for a pattern of ‘discontinuous’ leave involving different periods of leave.
  • If a parent asks for discontinuous leave in a notification the employer can refuse and require that the total weeks of leave in the notice be taken in a single continuous block.
  • However, where the employee’s notification is for a continuous block of leave the employer is required to agree.
  • Each parent entitled and intending to take Shared Parental Leave must give their employer a notice which must include:
    1. How much leave is available
    2. How much leave they are entitled to take
    3. How much leave the parent is intending to take
    4. How they expect to take it

What happens if a parent wishes to vary an agreed period of Shared Parental Leave?

Once the parties have agreed a period of leave, if the employee wishes to amend the period they must send the employer written notice to vary the leave.

The variation notice may:

  • Vary start and end dates
  • Vary the amount of leave, or
  • Ask for a single period of leave to become discontinuous or vice versa

The employee can withdraw their notification on or before the 15th day after the notification was originally made and it will not count as one of their three notifications. If not, they must take the total amount of leave notified in one continuous block. The employee can choose when this leave period will begin within 19 days of the date the notification was given to the employer but it cannot start sooner than the initial notified start date.

What happens about KIT (keeping in touch days)?

Shared Parental Leave in touch days (SPLIT) days will be introduced for parents taking Shared Parental Leave. These will be in addition to the Keeping in Touch (KIT) days already available for women on statutory maternity leave. Each parent will be entitled to 20 SPLIT days under Shared Parental Leave.

Do employees still have employment protection when taking up Shared Parental Leave?

As with maternity and paternity leave, protections have been put in place for employees who take Shared Parental Leave to ensure that they are not disadvantaged by taking this leave. These protections relate to terms of employment, return to work, and general treatment. Employees who take Shared

Parental Leave are entitled to all the benefits of employment, except remuneration, which would have applied if they had not been absent.

What do I need to do, as an employer to be ready for Shared Parental Leave?

Employers will need to:

  • Review and update existing maternity, paternity and adoption policies.
  • Develop and prepare policies and procedures relating to Shared Parental Leave.

How Charity Backroom HR can help.

This Focus-on..... is an overview of this new piece of legislation. Once the final legislation on Shared Parental Leave has been set by the Government, Charity Backroom HR will be preparing a Shared Parental Leave Policy and Procedures which will be sent to all their clients. The HR team will also help and guide clients through this new piece of legislation, of which this Focus On is the first step in that process.

Our Chartered CIPD qualified HR Consultants are experienced in advising clients on which employment matters that arise within their organisation and in negotiating potential problems before they arise.

The services we can provide include:

  • One-to-one advice & support, covering all areas of HR Implementation including TUPE, Redundancy, Restructure, Contracts of employment and Induction – by telephone and face to face.
  • Employment Law advice via our Consultants and via a qualified Employment Lawyer.
  • Template and bespoke letters, policies and documents.
  • Line Manager Training.
  • Policy Review.

For more information about Charity Backroom’s HR Service, contact us on 01603 883866 / 01603 883850.

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