Shared parental leave

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Requests for shared parental leave (SPL) can be made from December 2014 so employers who haven’t already put in place new SPL policies and procedures need to do so. SPL is available for parents of children due to be born (or placed for adoption) on or after 5 April 2015. The current maternity leave regime will remain in place but, from 5 April, mothers can end their maternity leave early and opt to take SPL with their partner either separately or at the same time. The new procedure is complex but some of the biggest differences employers will have to prepare for are as follows:

  • SPL can be taken in ‘blocks’. Employees can ask to stop and start their SPL and return to work in between these ‘blocks’ of SPL. If the employee requests one continuous block of leave it must be granted. If the employee requests discontinuous blocks of leave (i.e. two or more periods of leave interspersed with periods of time at work) then the employer does not have to agree to this although there is a procedure that must be followed.
  • New notification and evidence rules will apply. Employers should adopt model forms and have these in place in good time.
  • If both parents work for the same employer and are eligible to take SPL then employers may face a situation where both parents are off on SPL at the same time.
  • Each parent taking SPL will be entitled to up to 20 ‘shared parental leave in touch days’ (SPLIT days) which are separate and in addition to the KIT days available under statutory maternity leave.

Shared parental pay (SPP) is paid for up to 37 weeks at the lower of the current statutory rate (£138.18) or 90% of the parent’s pay. There is no requirement to pay the first 6 weeks of SPP at 90% of the parent’s earnings as there is for statutory maternity pay. Some employers offer enhanced maternity pay during maternity leave and such employers will need to consider whether they wish to replicate this enhancement for SPP. It is conceivable that if such enhancements are not replicated in SPP a man on SPL may bring a claim for sex discrimination. Employers should give this point some consideration and be able to articulate the business reasons for any decision to enhance maternity pay but not SPP. Thought should be given to the employee relations angle of not matching the enhancements too.

It is important to ensure that line managers are made aware of the basics of SPL including the fact that employees (both male and female) are protected against dismissal or detriment for making or proposing to make use of the SPL regime. We also recommend scheduling ‘SPL – in practice’ as a topic for HR team training in advance of April 2015.

For further information on shared parental leave see our update Shared Parental Leave – fireworks or just a fizzle? If you would like assistance in preparing your shared parental leave policy and associated notification forms please contact Andrew Rayment. We will be discussing SPL at our forthcoming employment breakfast briefing on 27 November.