The Government has confirmed that it will introduce a new system of shared parental leave by April 2015.
On 29 November the Government published its response to the consultation on the administration of shared parental leave and pay, launched in February this year. The document confirms some of the finer details of the proposal. This should enable employers to start planning for what will be a significant shake-up of family friendly rights.
The aim is to reform the leave and pay provision for working parents granting greater flexibility and choice as to how childcare is divided between parents.
How will the new right to shared parental leave work?
- The existing 52 weeks of maternity leave, other than the first two weeks of compulsory maternity leave, will be able to be shared between the parents where they meet the qualifying conditions.
- Eligible employees could also take up to 39 weeks of shared parental pay.
- Parents will be able to take the leave together or alternatively, the mother may return to work and allow her partner to take the balance of the leave, or both parents could take it in turns to have periods of leave.
- Employees will have to notify their employer of their eligibility and intention to take shared parental leave together with a non-binding indication of their expected pattern of leave.
- In addition, employees will have to give formal notice 8 weeks in advance to take specific periods of shared leave. The formal notice period will include a two week discussion period with their employer.
Further details now confirmed
The Government response confirms the approach which will be taken on some of the open issues, including:
- There will be a limit of 3 notifications that an employee can give to take a period of shared leave, in order to create certainty for employers. However, changes which are mutually agreed between the employer and employee will not count towards this limit.
- The time limit for taking shared parental leave will be 52 weeks from birth.
- A formal notice to end maternity leave and to start shared parental leave will be binding when given prior to birth. However, a mother will have 6 weeks from birth to revoke such notice.
- Parents will have up to 20 keeping in touch days each to use while on shared parental leave. This will be in addition to the 10 keeping in touch days available to a mother while on maternity leave.
- The right to return to the same job will be kept for employees returning from any period of leave which totals 26 weeks or less in aggregate, even where leave is taken in discontinuous blocks.
What happens next?
The Children and Families Bill (the Bill) currently going through Parliament will implement shared parental leave but secondary legislation will also be needed to set out the finer details and the Government intends to publish this in draft before the Bill receives Royal Assent.