The Shared Parental Leave Regulations (“SPL Regulations”) provide parents with a new legal right that will allow them to share caring responsibilities in a way which suits them. It came into force on 1 December 2014 and applies to parents of babies due on or after 15 April 2015.
SPL is calculated in relation to the mother’s maternity leave entitlement which is currently limited to 52 weeks’ leave. Under SPL Regulations, the mother can decide to reduce the amount of maternity leave that she takes and instead allow her partner to take SPL for the remaining weeks.
Unlike maternity leave, eligible employees can start and stop SPL and return to work between periods of leave allowing them a greater degree of flexibility. Employers will be under a legal duty to ensure that employees are not penalised for taking SPL or pressured to cancel/change their leave.
In order to qualify for SPL a mother must have:
Be entitled to maternity leave or statutory maternity pay or allowance;
Have given notice to reduce her maternity leave or pay/allowance.
A parent intending to take SPL must:
Be an employee;
Share primary responsibility for the child with the other parent at the time of the birth;
Have properly notified the employer of their entitlement and have provided declarations and evidence.
Additionally, the parent must have been employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the child’s expected due date and earned at least £30 a week in any 13 week period in the preceding 66 weeks.
An employee is entitled to submit 3 separate notices to book SPL. Leave must be taken in complete weeks and can be taken in a continuous period, which an employer cannot refuse. If SPL is requested for a discontinuous period, it may be refused by the employer. Default provisions as set out in the SPL Regulations may apply in this situation.
The idea of SPL is a simple one, but implementing it fairly in practice is not so simple. As such, employers are advised to put in place a SPL policy explaining the entitlement, eligibility criteria along with details of how applications should be made and how they will be dealt with, in accordance with the SPL Regulations. This will ensure clarity and consistency in approach and compliance with the SPL Regulations thereby helping to avoid time consuming and potentially costly disputes with employees
*SPL will also apply to parents of adopted children.
For more information on how this may affect your business, please contact a member of our Employment team.