Employment rights: Shared parental leave
From April 2015, the laws surrounding parental leave are changing to allow fathers almost the same rights as mothers by sharing parental leave. But what does this mean in practice? Everyday Legal is here to explain what the changes mean for new parents and how employers must accommodate these new laws.
Sharing and caring
Parents expecting a baby, or adopting a child, on or after the 5th April 2015 may be entitled to share up to 52 weeks of parental leave.
Under the new laws, mothers must have a compulsory two-week recovery period after the birth of their child. This then leaves 50 weeks that can be shared between the parents in any combination.
So for example…
Mum misses work(!)
Mum takes 24 weeks maternity leave (approximately six months) and then returns to work full time. This then leave 28 weeks of Shared Parental Leave (SPL), 15 weeks of which is still valid for Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) available for Dad to take.
Mum and Dad want to be off at the same time
In this instance mum would have the two weeks compulsory leave. She would then end her maternity and her and her partner would then share the remaining 50 weeks, allowing them to have up to 25 weeks off as shared parental leave before needing to return to work. Alternatively one of them could return to work earlier and allow the other to have the full remainder of the time left.
Let’s talk money
Babies are certainly not a cheap business so it’s understandable that a lot of parents are anxious about how much money they can expect to get when on shared parental leave.
Mothers on statutory maternity pay currently receive 90 per cent of their normal salary for the first six weeks and then £138.18 for the next 33 weeks (approximately 9 months). They can then take a further 13 weeks leave but they will not receive any money.
The same rules and amounts will be applied to Shared Parental Leave so, in the case of example one ‘Mum misses work’, mum would receive 90 per cent of their normal salary for the first six weeks and then £138.18 for the next 18 weeks. Dad would then receive £138.18 a week for the remaining 15 weeks.
If both parents were off for the same length of time, mum would receive six weeks at 90% pay and then 13 weeks at £138.18. Dad would receive £138 for 19 weeks. (There would be one week of ShPP left for the parents to fight over!).
A parent wanting to take SPL is required to satisfy the continuity of employment test and their partner must meet the employment and earnings test:
- Continuity of employment test
They must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week the baby is due and still be employed for the first week that SPL is to be taken
e.g. Due date is 26th April 2015. 15 weeks prior to this is 11th January so the parents must have been working for the same employer for at least 26 weeks before this date (13th July 2014)
- Employment and earnings test
Must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and earned more than the maternity allowance threshold of £30 a week in 13 of the 66 weeks.
Shared parental leave is available to parents who have a due date or adoption date on or after the 5th April 2015. You remain eligible even if your baby arrives early.
The role of your employer
Shared parental leave is the right of the employee and so an employer cannot refuse a request for a continuous period of leave. Request for discontinuous blocks of leave however (e.g. four weeks on, four weeks off) are at the discretion of the employer; they can refuse and request leave is taken in one go.
Whilst an employee has the right to an uninterrupted spell of SPL, it is a good idea to let your employer know their intentions as soon as possible. Talking about your preferences as early as possible could help improve your chances of successfully applying for discontinuous blocks of leave as you’re giving your employer as much time as possible to plan ahead and maintain business continuity.
The employee must provide at least eight weeks notice from when they intend to start their leave. In this notice they must include how:
- much leave is available
- much leave they are entitled to take
- much leave they intend to take
- they expect to take it (i.e. in one spell or in blocks).
Content correct at time of publication