Shared parental leave - what employers need to know


The new Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and pay regulations recently came into force and will be available to parents whose babies are due to be born on or after 5 April 2015 or for adopters whose children are placed for adoption on or after the same date.  Bedford employment solicitor Andrew Buckely gives an overview of what employers and employees need to know. 

So what do the new regulations do?

They allow parents to share 50 weeks maternity leave and 37 weeks statutory Shared Parental pay. The first 2 weeks following the birth of the baby are compulsory maternity leave and this may not be shared. Unlike the current options of maternity, paternity and adoption leave, which still exist under the new regulations, SPL can be taken at different times throughout the first year of the child’s life.

Obviously, this all provides another potential administrative headache for hard pressed employers who will be less certain, after the arrival of a new baby, of when the employee will be at work. 

What are the qualification criteria?

To qualify for SPL the employee must have been continuously employed by their employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the due date or adoption placement, and remain in employment before any period of SPL is due to start.

In addition, they must share the main responsibility for the care of the child with the other parent. The other parent will also need to satisfy an ‘employment and earnings test’. This is satisfied by earning a wage in Great Britain, for at least 26 weeks in a period of 66 weeks and by having the average weekly earnings of at least £30 per week in 13 of the 66 weeks.

Yet more complexity for employers...! 

In practical terms the new regulations add greater complexity to what can already be a complex process for employers. Imagine this scenario: 

  • A new mother decides to take the first 30 weeks of her ordinary maternity leave and statutory pay
  • She then has a further 22 weeks available for either maternity leave, or SPL (and in either case a further 9 weeks of pay)
  • The mother could serve a ‘curtailment notice’ on her employer discontinuing her maternity leave and pay. (Curtailment notices have to be given 8 weeks in advance of the SPL beginning.) 
  • The father may then notify his employer (8 weeks in advance) that he intends to take SPL.
  • The mother and father may then share the remainder of the SPL as they wish.

Get ready, it's not coming, it's here!

As requests could come in very soon, employers need to get to grips with the new regulations as soon as they can. This may involve them reviewing and updating policies and handbooks to reflect these changes. In many cases it will require the creation of a specific SPL policy and confirmation letters of entitlement to leave and pay.

Need advice on Shared Parental Leave?

To discuss this or for further information, please get in touch with myself in Bedford on 01234 270600 or by email at abuckley@woodfines.co.uk, or in Cambridge please contact Nick Sayer on 01223 411421 (nsayer@woodfines.co.uk), and in Milton Keynes, Maria Gallucci (mgallucci@woodfines.co.uk) on 01908 202150.