The government has made important changes to the way in which parents will be able to take time off work following the birth of their child. The new system will be applicable to all births after 5 April 2015 and its aim is to allow parents to make a joint decision about who is better placed to undertake the primary caring responsibility.
Shared parental leave will allow eligible parents to take leave from work in order to care for a new-born for a maximum of 52 weeks. The couple will be able to choose whether they take the leave together, singularly or consecutively.
Qualifying parents will be able to share between them up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of which would be paid. Following the birth of a child, a mother is prohibited from returning to work for at least 2 weeks so the mother must still take the first 2 weeks as compulsory leave herself.
Following the 2 week compulsory maternity leave, parents will be entitled to Shared Paternity Pay at a rate of £138.18 per week, or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
Expectant parents will have to give notice to their employers of their intention to opt into the shared parental leave system and must “book” the leave they wish to take. They must give at least 8 weeks’ notice of the proposed leave. Parents will be able to revise the leave they wish to take up to 3 times. However, if they wish to change the original planned leave they must still give 8 weeks’ notice to their employer.
These changes are important for both expectant parents and employers. Employers must ensure that their existing maternity, paternity and parental leave policies are amended.