Parents can share parental leave from 2015

Posted on Mar 17th, 2014 | Employment law

From 2015, parents will be able to share 50 out of 52 weeks statutory maternity leave and 37 out of 39 weeks statutory maternity pay.

At the moment Parental Leave is a right for parents who are employees to take time off work to look after a child or make arrangements for the child’s welfare. It is available to employees who have, or expect to have, parental responsibility for a child and who have one year of continuous service with their current employer.

Parental leave is unpaid (unless your employer offers a contractual right to payment) and available for each child born or adopted. Employees get 18 weeks in total for each child.

When can parental leave be taken at the moment?

  • As long as they give the correct notice to their employer, parents are able to take parental leave at any time from the birth (or adoption) up to the child’s fifth birthday (or fifth year of adoption placement). Parents of disabled children can take up to 18 weeks until their child’s 18th birthday.
  • You may have to give notice to your Employer to take parental leave – this may be set by your employer but generally it is 21 days notice of when you want to start the leave.
  • You must take your leave in blocks of a full week (unless your employer allows you to take it in shorter blocks). If your child is disabled you can take time off in blocks of less than a week.
  • You can take a maximum of 4 weeks parental leave each year for each child (unless your employer allows you to take more).
  • Your employer has the right to postpone your requested parental leave dates for up to 6 months, if their business would be significantly affected by your leave. Your employer should discuss this with you and confirm the postponed arrangements, in writing, no later than 7 days after you apply for the leave. They should set out the new dates you have agreed and the length of the parental leave should be the same as you originally applied for.

Full details of Parental Leave, as is stands at the moment, are here.

The new system of Shared Parental Leave that will be introduced in 2015 (included in the Children and Families Bill) was recently consulted on by the Government. The Government have published their response to the consultation, which is the following:

  • Parents will be required to ‘opt’ into the Shared Parental Leave (SPL) system by giving notice to do so 8 weeks before the leave starts.
  • Mothers will need to give a notice to end their maternity leave and opt into SPL. Mother’s who give notice to start SPL before the child’s birth will be able to revoke their notice up to 6 weeks after the birth.
  • When parents request a period of SPL there will be a 2-week period for the employee and employer to discuss the leave pattern. Employees will be required to give a non-binding indication of the leave pattern they expect to take when they notify their employer they intend to take SPL.
  • Employees will be able to notify their intention to take leave or change leave dates only 3 times.
  • Employers cannot insist the leave is taken in one block.
  • If the employee and employer do not reach an agreement on the leave pattern in the first request, employers can insist on the leave requested in this first notice being taken as one block. The employee will then have 2 further occasions on which he/she can give notice to take the remainder of their entitlement (assuming the first request only relates to part of the employees entitlement).
  • All SPL must be taken by the end of the 52 weeks after the birth.
  • Each parent will be able to use 20 Keeping-in-Touch (KIT) days during SPL (this will be renamed to avoid the confusion with the 10 KIT days a mother can have during her maternity leave). These 20 days will be in addition to the 10 days that can be used during maternity leave.
  • The notice required to take ordinary paternity leave and pay will be at the 15th week before the EWC (expected week of confinement).
  • An employee will have the right to return to the same job no matter how many periods of SPL or other leave they have taken, and whether the leave was continuous or not, as long as they have taken 26 or fewer week’s leave in total (including maternity, adoption, paternity and SPL). If they have taken over 26 weeks they would only have the right to return to the same or a similar job.

It all sounds a bit confusing so when we have more details we’ll let you know! We updated our information in July 2014 and you can see our new Guide to Shared Parental Leave here.

If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues, or a Contractor/Freelancer/Employee with a complicated employment related problem, then talk to us at The HR Kiosk – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.

Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.

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Written by Lesley Furber

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