Shared Parental Leave – Family Friendly but sleepless nights for employers?

February 5, 2015

As an employer you will have no doubt heard that the introduction of the new provisions of the Children and Families Act 2014 for shared parental leave will come into effect from April this year, and will apply to the parents where the expected week of confinement begins on or after 5th April 2015 (or in the case of adoption, where a child is placed on or after 5th April 2015).  This provision does not supersede the existing maternity and paternity leave provisions nor does it replace the existing parental leave provisions (although the right to take parental leave will also be extended to cover all children up to the age of 18 from April 5th this year).

Confused, surely not!  There’s more to come.  The basic premise of the introduction of Shared Parental leave is that both parents should have the right to share 50 of the 52 weeks of leave and pay  that have historically been awarded only to the mother.  So far so good.  The new rules allow that, provided both parents are eligible, (have at least 26 weeks service at the 15th week before the expected week of confinement) they can share the parental leave (in blocks of one week) with their partner.    This can be spread over the 52 week period or can be taken at the same time.  Simple!

The devil is in the detail here, as the rules for giving notice of intent to employers are extremely complex, and provide for parents to vary their requested dates by submitting a Variation Notice, to curtail their maternity leave, to revoke their curtailment notice and request discontinuous periods of leave.  Overlay this with time limits and the need for employers to communicate with each other to determine that the leave entitlements are properly granted, and you have a complex administrative task that will follow each request for Shared Parental Leave.

So, whilst the introduction of this new right is a positive reflection of the strengthening of the role of the father in the care of children and will be embraced as such, the administrative tangle that is involved in ensuring that the correct processes are followed in managing leave requests will undoubtedly cause headaches for employers.

Should you be anticipating requests from employees and would like to discuss how to respond, please contact jenny@hitchinhr.co.uk who will be able to walk you through the process.  If you would like to sign up to our HR Updates in order to receive your copy of our Shared Parental Leave Policy and procedure and FAQ Sheet on Shared Parental Leave,  please contact lia@hitchinhr.co.uk who will be happy to help you.