The government has made important changes to the way in which parents are able to take time off following the birth of a child. The new rules, introduced in December 2014, state that parents of children born on or after 5 April 2015 are entitled to shared parental leave.
The introduction of shared parental leave aims to provide more flexibility to parents by enabling them to share childcare in the year following their child’s birth. This way a joint decision can be made regarding who is better placed to undertake primary caring responsibility.
Mothers are still required to take two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave immediately following the birth of their child. However, parents can now elect to end the mother’s maternity leave after two weeks and share the remaining 50 weeks between them.
Parents are able to choose whether to take the leave together, singularly or consecutively and are entitled to take leave continuously or in more than one block if desired. Parents are entitled to receive shared parental pay at a rate of £138.18 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the first 37 weeks of leave.
There is a two-stage notice process for expectant parents who wish to take up shared parental leave.
Stage 1: Mothers are required to give their employer at least eight weeks’ notice of their intention to end their maternity leave and both parents must give their employers at least eight weeks’ notice of their intention to take up shared parental leave – setting out prescribed information and giving an indication of the dates they wish to take.
Stage 2: Each parent is then required to provide a further leave of notice at least eight weeks before the start of each period of shared parental leave. Each can revise the leave they wish to take up to three times provided the correct notice is given.
These changes are important for both expectant parents and employers. Employers must ensure that their existing maternity, paternity, adoption and parental leave policies are amended to reflect these changes.
If you require any assistance reviewing and updating your policies, please contact a member of our Employment Team on 01279 755777.