Shared parental leave represents a significant change in current legislation which is aimed at giving parents more flexibility over how they share childcare during the first year of their child’s life. It is hoped that this will cater for a growing desire by men to play a more hands-on role in a baby’s first months.
These changes will apply to all employers and will require existing policies and practices to be reviewed and updated to ensure compliance with the Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014.
This special guide is all about making sense of Shared Parental Leave and there will be additional Q&As over the coming months to answer more of your questions.
1. When will these new regulations come into force? The regulations are expected to come into force from 1st December 2014 and will apply in relation to babies due on or after 5th April 2015. This will also apply to adoptive parents in relation to children placed for adoption on or after 5th April 2015.
2. When must the shared parental leave be taken by? All shared leave must be taken before the child’s first birthday.
3. How much leave can be shared? Up to 50 weeks can be shared between the parents since the mother must take 2 weeks (or 4 weeks for factory workers) of compulsory maternity leave following the birth. However, the mother’s partner can begin a period of shared parental leave at any time from the date of the child’s birth.
4. How will this work in practice? For example, the mother could take 2 weeks’ compulsory maternity leave followed by 30 weeks’ shared parental leave. This would leave 20 weeks’ shared parental leave for the father to take at any time before the child’s first birthday, either at the same time as the mother or when she has returned to work.
5. When will the mother of a child be eligible to take shared parental leave? A mother will be eligible for shared parental leave to care for her child if she has at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth and remains in continuous employment with that employer until the week before any period of shared parental leave that she takes.
In addition, her ‘working partner’ must have been employed (or self-employed) during at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the expected week of childbirth and meet the requirements of an ‘economic activity test’ in respect of earnings.
In the next article, we will look at who qualifies as a ‘working partner’ for the purposes of shared paternity leave, how an employee can ‘opt in’ to shared parental leave and what notice periods are required.