Shared parental leave – the facts

Shared Parental Leave is available to parents of children born or placed for adoption since April 5th 2015. Whilst uptake is predicted to be limited/slow initially, it is worth knowing the facts ahead of any discussions to avoid unnecessary confusion or confrontation.

How does it work?

A mother can either opt to keep her maternity entitlement or, under the new scheme, share up to 50 weeks leave and 37 weeks pay with the child’s father/partner. The leave can be taken separately or concurrently and if chosen, the father/partner is entitled to take all 50 weeks leave and the mother return to work.

Do you have to accept a shared parental leave request?

Employers are obliged to accept up to three requests for a continuous block of leave e.g. an employee could be absent for say three blocks of four weeks, returning to work in-between each block. An employer does not however, have to accept requests for discontinued periods of leave e.g. a period of three months where the employee works alternate weeks.

The employee is only required to give eight weeks notice which could impact short term staffing issues in hospitality where shift work is prevalent.

What do you need to do?

The new scheme is heavily stacked in favour of the employee thus it is vital that all employers have a sound understanding of the new regime and know where to seek specialist advice if necessary.

It is worth considering the following:

  • Having a written policy in place detailing your company’s stance on Shared Parental Leave
  • Your budget for the cost of Shared Parental Leave
  • How you will cover short term staffing needs in relation to Shared Parental Leave

NB It has not been tested in an employment tribunal due to its infancy but it is also worth considering if you will allow enhanced shared parental pay. It might be deemed sexist if you agree to enhanced maternity pay but not enhanced shared parental pay to men.

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