New Shared Parental Leave Regulations
Thanks to the Children and Families Act 2014, on the 1st of December 2014, shared parental leave (SPL) rights will be introduced for parents expecting babies or matched to adopt a child from 5th April 2015. What does this mean? The new rules will allow working parents to share their maternity and paternity leave in whatever way they choose (subject to meeting certain eligibility criteria). Is your organisation prepared for this and the increased administration it will bring?
A survey by law firm Linklaters of 250 employees working for FTSE100 employers, 62% showed an interest in taking a period of shared parental leave.
Parents will be allowed to take a total of 52 weeks off work after having a baby or being matched for adoption. SPL must be taken between the baby’s birth and their 1st birthday or within 1 year of adoption. There are notice periods built in so that employers can plan. For example, within the 52-week period, workers will have to give at least eight week's notice of the start date of their leave. Employers will not be able to refuse leave, but they will be able to refuse discontinuous blocks of leave – so, for example, if someone asks for two six-week periods of leave, an employer can insist that it is taken as a single 12-week block.
Simon Kerr-Davis, a senior employment lawyer at Linklaters says “There’s a lot of admin behind this for employers and employees. The guidance released by the government is user-friendly, even if the legislation is not.”
The first step for employers is to think about their policies, Kerr-Davis advises. They need to now not only make sure their shared parental leave policy covers statutory requirements, but also whether or not to enhance shared leave. “It is a complex piece of legislation, but that complexity is inevitable because you are trying to offer flexibility to two employees whose relationship depends on each other” says Kerr-Davis.
Alongside reviewing policies, automating the process is another way to reduce the risk of errors and reduce the impact on your HR managers. Systems such as ER Tracker are able to automate the process, building in steps such as confirming whether the employee is eligible, storing key outcomes of the case and retaining documents for HMRC purposes.
As the legislation comes into force on 1 December, employers managing employees with babies due after 5 April 2015, who may arrive prematurely will need to apply the new rules - will you be ready?
The introduction of shared parental leave will pose significant practical challenges for managers, HR departments and employers, but it could potentially be an important driver of gender equality in relation to childcare/family friendly rights.
The official employer guide can be found on the gov.uk website Shared Parental Leave and Pay: Employer Guide