December 12, 2013

Legal Issues – Shared Parental Leave

The Government issued their response to the consultation on the administration of shared parental leave and pay on 29 November 2013. The Government has announced that it intends to implement its proposals for shared parental leave in April 2015.

All mothers must take two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave to cover the initial two week recovery period after the birth of their child. Shared parental leave will allow eligible parents to share the remaining 50 weeks’ shared parental leave and 37 weeks’ pay. This will allow parents flexibility in respect of their leave arrangements as they will be able to share the remaining leave entitlement and can take leave at the same time or take it in turns to care for their child provided they take no more than 52 weeks in total.

The Government announced that the plans for shared parental leave will include: –

– the requirement that employees give notice of their intention to opt into the shared parental leave system eight weeks before the leave starts and give a non-binding indication of how they plan to take their leave;

– protection for mothers who give notice to opt into the system by giving them the right to revoke the notice up to 6 weeks following the birth of the baby;

– introducing a limit on the number of times a parent can notify an employer of their intention to take a period of shared parental leave. This would be capped at three times unless changes to leave are mutually agreed between the employer and employee;

– creating a new provision allowing each parent to take 20 days under shared parental leave to support them in their return to work. This could mean using these days to return on a part-time basis for a limited period of time.

The Government considers that the new leave system will allow parents to have more choice about how they balance their work and childcare and that the new leave system will allow businesses to have more open discussions with employees about their leave arrangements.

However, the proposals have received criticism from some employers, politicians and trade unions. Some consider that the proposals haven’t gone far enough with many others suggesting that the proposals are a nightmare for small employers and will be complex and burdensome both administratively and operationally. There is also concern surrounding how employers will be able to prevent employees abusing the system by taking more leave than they are entitled to under the new leave system.

All of these concerns may not be answered until the framework regulating shared parental leave is published in the Children and Families Bill 2013 which is currently going through Parliament.

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