from the workplace to the nursery and back again!
The opportunity for parents to share parental leave after the arrival of their new baby, or newly adopted baby or child, is something that the previous government was keen to introduce to give parents more flexibility in considering how best to care for, and bond with, their child in the early months.
Employers may now be facing some delicate negotiations perhaps for new parents wishing to take advantage of this time off at this special time in their lives.
For some of you this will be fairly new so here is a very brief overview of the leave provisions:
- Shared Parental Leave (Sh PL) can only be taken once a mother ends her maternity leave and opts to share the balance of untaken leave with her partner. This could be up to 50 weeks with up to 37 weeks' paid;
- Parents will be able to intersperse periods of work with periods of leave and will be able to take leave at the same time as each other;
- Only employees are entitled to shared parental leave; Agency workers, self-employed parents, or parents who are not employed, are not entitled to shared parental leave;
- Sometimes both parents will qualify for shared parental leave; sometimes only one parent will qualify;
- An employee has the right to submit three notifications specifying leave periods they are intending to take;
- Only two people are eligible: the mother/adopter and either the father of the child (in the case of birth) or the spouse, civil partner or partner of the child's mother/adopter;
- Both parents must share the main responsibility for the care of the child at the time of the birth/placement for adoption;
- Where a parent requests a continuous period of leave, he or she is entitled to take that period of leave;
- Where the notice is for a discontinuous (i.e. broken) period, the employer can:
- consent to the periods of leave;
- suggest alternative dates; or
- refuse the periods of leave.
There are qualifying conditions which have to be met which are:
- A " continuity of employment test " - which is at least 26 weeks' continuous employment ending with the week preceding the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth or matching date for adoption and must continue to be employed when they take the leave; and
- The other parent must meet the “ employment and earnings test ” this requires the person to have earned at least £30 per week for 13 weeks out of a total of 26 weeks, in the period of 66 weeks leading up to the week the baby is due or matched for adoption.
A self-employed parent will not be eligible for shared parental leave or pay but if they satisfy the “employment and earnings test” this may enable their employed partner to access shared parental leave and pay.
Tips for employers:
- It is possible for organisations to receive requests from other employers seeking confirmation of someone's employment status etc to enable them to take Sh PL. If this happens, be aware of your obligations under the Data Protection Act to safeguard a person's data and ensure that it looks like a legitimate request – ideally perhaps with your employee's signature as consent to the request for information;
- Encourage line managers to have informal discussions as early as possible regarding a member of their team's request to take Sh PL.
- If a request for Sh PL is received encourage line managers to arrange a meeting to discuss in detail the leave proposed and what will happen while the employee is away from work;
- If a notice is for a single period of continuous leave, or where a request for discontinuous leave is likely to be approved as requested, a meeting may not be necessary;
- Where a request is received for discontinuous leave the discussion may also focus on how the leave proposal could be agreed, whether a modified arrangement would be agreeable, and what the outcome may be if no agreement is reached;
- An employee can vary or cancel an agreed or booked period of Sh PL by giving eight weeks' notice. This will be a smoother process if line managers keep in regular touch and have good working relationships with their team;
- During Sh PL the employee's contract of employment continues and they are entitled to receive all their contractual benefits, except for salary which is replaced by Sh Parental Pay if eligible. Pension contributions will continue to be made - employee contributions will be based on actual pay, while the organisation's contributions will be based on the salary that the employee would have received had they not been taking Sh PL;
- Employees will continue to accrue holiday entitlement and should, wherever possible, take their leave in the year that it is earned. Where Sh PL overlaps two holiday years the employee should consider how their annual leave will be taken and, if they wish to carry some forward to the next leave year, they may need their manager's permission;
- Each parent will be able to work for up to 20 days Sh PL In Touch (SPLIT) days during periods of shared parental leave without bringing the period to an end. Any work carried out on a day or part of a day shall constitute a day's work for these purposes and an employee will receive full pay for any day worked.
In many workplaces the take-up may be quite small but you can start to plan ahead by looking at the age profile of your workforce and open up discussions with your staff about this new leave arrangement in order to gauge likely interest and take-up.
What impact this will have on the workplace remains to be seen but I have no doubt that for some couples this opportunity will be most welcome. For employers – the overly bureaucratic booking system for this leave will be tricky and the BIS 66-page guidance here only emphasises the complexity of it. If you need help wading through this then please email or phone me.