Following a recent study, it is estimated over a third of workers under the age of 34 planning to have children are intending to utilise the new right to share parental leave. Shared Parental Leave is available to workers whose babies are due on or after 5 April 2015, or to those workers who adopt a child on or after 5 April 2015. The new system will empower mothers and fathers, and partners and adopters, in order to choose exactly how they want to split or share the time off work they are eligible for following the birth/adoption of their child.
Timing is important
The regulations came into force on 1 December 2014 which means that businesses could already be facing numerous requests for shared parental leave. In addition, as long as the child is due on an expected date on or after 5 April 2015, in conjunction with the fact that it is often difficult to make clear exactly when the baby will be born, there is a real prospect of businesses being subject to the new system of shared parental leave prior to April 2015.
However, there is evidence to suggest that businesses are too focused on the April date in 2015, instead of application dates. Indeed, YouGov found that 22 per cent of senior managers remain completely in the dark about shared parental leave. The reality is that with a step towards increased flexibility for working families following the birth of a child, there will be corresponding effects on the businesses the parents work in.
How will the new system of shared parental leave work?
Under the new system, although a pregnant woman will continue to enjoy 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of pay, it is now the case that the leave may be opted to be partially shared or converted into leave for the other partner. Importantly, the options for the shared leave are flexible: parents may apply for continuous leave or, if agreed with the employer, discontinuous blocks of leave. Perhaps more importantly, parents/partners will be able to take the shared leave at the same time as one another.
There are requirements insofar as applicant employees must submit, firstly, non-binding notices of their intent to take shared parental leave and, secondly, a booking notice confirming the full details of the request. However, it is clear that the short timeframe to implementation, in conjunction with management unfamiliarity, will lead to issues in unprepared businesses.
All employers are advised to prepare policies and guidance as well as to review existing policies with a specific eye to the effects of shared parental leave. For specialist advice contact Aneil Balgobin via e-mail ABalgobin@rollingsons.co.uk or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.