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Shared parental leave and pay – are you ready?

Print publication

16/01/2015

A new Government survey intended to assess the potential uptake of shared parental leave (ShPL) has reported that 83% of those planning to become parents in the future would consider taking shared parental leave. This is contrary to original official predictions that only a modest amount (no more than 8%) would do so. ShPL is available in respect of children who are expected to be born on or after 5 April 2015, or who are placed for adoption on or after that date. The right not to be subjected to a detriment or dismissed for seeking to exercise the right to take ShPL is already in force.

‘ShPL – ready’ checklist
Here is our checklist for ensuring your organisation is ‘ShPL ready’:

  • Ensure there is a ShPL policy in place and it has been notified to staff and managers.
  • Ensure there are model notification of intention to take ShPL forms in place and employees know where to find them.
  • Remember that Additional Paternity Leave and Pay will no longer be available and employee handbooks will need to be updated to reflect this.
  • Ensure that appropriate awareness training has taken place. This is important because the concept of a man proposing to take a long period of parental leave may still raise eyebrows or draw inappropriate comments from peers and line managers. To protect the business from detriment, discrimination or harassment claims, it is important to have taken steps to prevent such treatment occurring.
  • Ensure there is a clear policy (this does not need to be made public) on whether to ask for evidence of the other parent’s eligibility for ShPL or for sight of the birth certificate. Adopting an inconsistent approach with different employees could lead to discrimination claims.
  • Ensure thought has been given as to whether any current enhanced maternity benefits will be replicated for those employees on ShPL. It will not necessarily be unlawful not to do so but it is important to be able to explain the reasons behind any difference in treatment. Each case will turn on its individual facts.

It remains to be seen what the take up of the new scheme will be and it is likely to be something of a ‘slow burner’. It is unlikely that there will be a deluge of employees wishing to exercise the right to ShPL but those that do will require careful handling to ensure compliance with the new and rather complicated rules. It will undoubtedly be a steep learning curve for all employers.

Strategic ShPL considerations
As highlighted in this newsletter, there is a lot going on in the family friendly arena at the moment. Employers may want to take this opportunity to review their strategy in this area more generally. Family friendly policies can not only be used as recruitment and retention tools internally but can provide the employer with a good PR opportunity to publicise equality and diversity credentials. There is an emerging trend for employers to report and publicise their equality statistics often using social media platforms. The thinking is that if an employer has good policies and statistics in this area then why not tell the market? Employers are noticeably becoming less willing to hide their light under a bushel in this area.

It goes without saying that for employers involved in public procurement, good equality and diversity polices and statistics can be a real advantage.

We are already seeing some larger employers taking the opportunity to be in the vanguard of those who have decided to replicate existing enhanced maternity benefits for employees on shared parental leave. Those who are going public about it are receiving favourable media and industry coverage not least because they are amongst the first employers to announce their intention to do so. Inevitably, at some point soon it will become ‘old news’ and the opportunities to make PR capital will decline. It may therefore be worth thinking now about whether your organisation has something positive to talk about on the diversity front and, if so, how this might be used in a beneficial way.

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