Shared parental leave – further details announced

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The Government has announced how the new system of shared parental leave will work when it comes into force in April 2015. The announcement followed an eight-month consultation process and can be viewed here

Under the new scheme, mothers will be able to commit to ending their maternity leave and maternity pay at a date in the future, with the intention of sharing the untaken balance of leave and pay with their partner. Qualifying earnings and length of service criteria will apply and each parent must meet these criteria in their own right.

Employees returning from any period of maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave of a total of 26 weeks or less in aggregate will have the right to return to the same job even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks. Any subsequent leave will carry the right to return to the same job, or if that is not reasonably practicable, a similar job.

The provisions, contained in the Children and Families Bill 2013, are now working their way through Parliament and the exact details of how the new system will work will be set out in Regulations yet to be published. Concerns have been raised about the logistical and communication challenges of sharing blocks of leave between two parents with two different employers. In addition, the response does not clarify the thorny question of whether employers who provide enhanced maternity pay will need to mirror this entitlement for a man taking parental leave or risk a sex discrimination claim.

The draft Regulations and associated guidance will need to address these points and specify the actual processes.

Shared parental leave will be a complex area for employers to grapple with and it will be high on the HR agenda throughout 2014. For further details see our Business Insight