Not only is the new Shared Parental Leave legislation described by legal specialists as possibly the most complex piece of employment legislation of the last decade, there is also evidence to suggest that the take-up will be higher than initially forecast.
Recent research commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) into public attitudes towards Shared Parental Leave (SPL) showed that 80% of those respondents considering having children in the future said they would consider taking SPL leave when they became parents. With an estimated 285,000 working couples a year eligible to take advantage of the new legislation, SME’s in particular need to be aware of the potential impact on their business.
With the Shared Parental Leave regulations now in force and affecting babies due from April 5th onwards, it is crucial for businesses to take steps to ensure they are fully compliant and prepared.
- First decide if you are going to offer the statutory entitlement or whether you are willing to offer enhanced benefits, especially if you already offer an enhanced maternity package.
- Create an SPL Policy and communicate it to all employees and managers.
- Highlight the fact that Additional Paternity Leave and Pay will no longer be available.
- Produce clear information as to employees’ responsibilities when applying for SPL such as producing documentation, advising of notice period, a declaration of the partners’ eligibility for SPL.
- Ensure sufficient training has been given to managers to avoid potential discrimination issues.
- Maintain a fair and consistent approach.
Aside from the administrative headache, the introduction of SPL (or any other family friendly legislation) can also be exploited as a PR opportunity. Demonstrating your proactive approach to equality and diversity in the workplace to employees and clients can be a smart strategy.
- Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014, Statutory Shared Parental Pay (General) Regulations and the Maternity and Adoption Leave (Curtailment of Statutory Rights to Leave) Regulations 2014 all came into effect in December 2014 for employees who are expecting a baby or adopting on or after the 5th April 2015 who satisfy the right eligibility criteria.
- Applicants must pass the continuity of employment test and the other partner must at least meet the employment and earnings test.
- Couples who satisfy certain criteria can share up to 50 weeks off and up to 39 weeks statutory pay.
- Leave can only be shared with one person.
- Both partners may take leave at the same time, (previously partners could take some of the remaining leave once a mother returned to work).
- Eligible employees are entitled by right to take shared parental leave within the bounds of the legislation.
- Employees can ask for leave in discontinuous blocks, companies do not have to agree to discontinuous blocks but must agree to one continuous block. Companies may find it beneficial to agree to discontinuous blocks, e.g. employee returns for a few weeks to cover the business Christmas period/finish a project etc.
- During SPL an employee and employer will be able to agree up to 20 Shared Parental Leave In Touch (SPLIT) days each. There is no obligation on an employer to offer these days or for an employee to agree to them. These are similar to the existing “Keeping in Touch” (KIT) days which are still available to those on maternity or adoption leave.
This article first appeared in the April/May edition of Business Connected