Shared Parental Leave

The introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Pay is a new employment right designed to give working parents more flexibility in how they care for their child in the first year after the child’s birth. It will have a significant impact on all businesses and it is important to ensure you are equipped to handle this as soon as possible.

Shared Parental leave and pay is available to parents of babies due on or after 5th April 2015 and allows eligible women to shorten their maternity leave.  Eligible parents share up to 50 weeks leave and 37 week pay.  Similar rules apply to adoptive parents.

Employees who may be eligible for shared parental leave may want to know more about their rights and duties.

Here are a few handy tips on how you can prepare your business for shared parental leave:-

  • Communicate
    Inform employees of your Shared Parental Leave Policy.  If you don’t have a policy in place yet, we recommend you consider putting one in place now, rather than leaving it until you need it. This will help you understand your duties and your employees to understand of their rights. It will also ensure you apply your policy consistently when responding to notifications.

    Encourage early conversations with employees regarding leave intentions. The earlier you start the conversation the more beneficial it will be for you; both parties will be clear regarding the entitlement, what leave arrangements are being considered and how any leave will be accommodated.

  • Make sure you are equipped to deal with notification requirements.
    Employees will be required to comply with specific notice requirements, for example expectant mothers will have to give notice to curtail their maternity leave. Notifications will need to include particular information and you may want to consider drafting some forms such as a Notification Form for employees to help them comply with the legal requirements.
    Employers often find it beneficial to have a meeting with the employee once they have received a notice to book SPL. Although it should be kept as informal as possible, an employer should inform their employee that they have the option to be accompanied by a fellow colleague, trade union representative or even a personal friend or a family member (we recommend you clarify who can be accompanied at these meetings within your policy)Whilst there is no legal requirement to do so, it can be reassuring to the employee and help encourage an open-minded discussion.
  • Think about your response for multiple short periods of shared parental leave.
    One of the biggest challenges employers may face is that employees are now able to book discontinuous periods of shared parental leave (e.g. three eight week blocks off work over the full 50 weeks allowance).  Leave can only be taken using three separate notices to book leave (although an employer could decide to accept more, but once again we recommend that this is clearly set out in your policy.

    In these circumstances, an employer may wish to consider the following before making any decisions:

  • What impacts will the leave arrangements have on the business?
  • Would any modification to the leave reduce the impact on the business and might the employee be agreeable to this?
  • How will you provide cover for the employees work?
  • Might other considerations help achieve a mutually beneficial agreement?
  • Decide on approach to evidence the entitlement.
    As an employer, you will be able to ask an employee to provide evidence of their entitlement to shared parental leave. This information may include details of the employer of the person with whom the employee wants to share the leave. Employers should decide what approach they will take to evidence requirements, for example:
  • Will you accept what an employee has declared without requesting further evidence?
  • Where employers intend to contact the other person’s employer, a template letter to that employer can make life much easier. We can help you draft such letters to ensure you are consistent with your requests.
  • Responding to requests
    Depending on the circumstances involved, there are four possible outcomes once an employer has received, considered and discussed a notice to book SPL:
  • Unconditionally accept a leave notification: a continuous leave notification must be accepted. Where a discontinuous leave notification is accepted, an employer should confirm this, ideally in writing.
  • Confirm an agreed modification to a leave notification: where both parties agree different discontinuous leave arrangements, once again this should be confirmed in writing confirming the agreed dates.
  • Refuse a leave notification (discontinuous leave only): employers should always seek to arrange a meeting to discuss the request with the employee. If the notification remains unacceptable to an employer, they should provide the following information in writing:
    • proposed alternative dates
    • confirmation of the refusal and
    • alternatives for the employee to consider
      Requests for discontinuous shared parental leave must be properly considered by an employer, and a consistent approach should be taken to within the business so as to reduce the risk of grievances and or/litigation
  • Fail to respond to a leave notification: whilst there is not statutory obligation to respond to any notification, we recommend employers provide a written response to all requests that are made.

For each of the above points, employers should put in place some standard template letters to help facilitate this process.

Shared Parental Leave is a complex change in law, if you haven’t done so already, we recommend you consider putting a policy and supporting documentation in place now, rather than leaving it until you need it. This will help you understand your duties and your employees to understand their rights. It will also ensure you apply your policy consistently when responding to notifications.

If you require any assistance dealing with Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Pay, or any other matters relating to HR, then please contact Bal on
020 761 68824 or e-mail balbir.dhesi@wildercoe.co.uk.

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