New rules for parents wanting time off to look after their children will come into force in April, including the much debated option for parents of new babies to share 50 weeks of leave.
And as the deadline looms, businesses are being warned to make sure they’re prepared, or risk claims for discrimination by fathers seeking to share the time with their newborn.
Paid Shared Parental Leave is a new right available to parents of babies who are expected to be born, or placed for adoption, from 5th April 2015 onwards. This scheme comes into force on 5th April, operating alongside the existing maternity leave regime, and will allow fathers and mothers to share up to 50 weeks of SPL, which can be taken by parents together or consecutively.
This is a major change and recognises the shifting patterns in families and parents. When the new rules come into force, once the mother has taken two weeks maternity leave immediately following the birth of her child, she can choose to share the remaining 50 weeks with her partner, having time off together or consecutively, and in whatever pattern they wish, subject to the employers of both parents agreeing to that pattern.
Some businesses are still not ready to deal with requests and they leave themselves open to claims of discrimination. It is important to get the process in place and start talking to employees now, in order to efficiently deal with any up-coming requests.
Eligible employees will be entitled to up to 37 weeks’ Shared Parental Pay at the weekly rate of £139.58, which may be shared between parents. This is in addition to the compulsory two weeks’ maternity pay and subject to offsetting any additional maternity or adoption pay already paid in respect of that child.
The other change in rights for parents is for unpaid parental leave, which has been extended to parents of all children under 18. This was previously restricted to parents of children under 5 years of age, or up to 18 where a child was disabled. The same rules also allow adoptive parents to take leave for up to 5 years after the child is placed with them.
From 5 April, all parents of children under 18 will be entitled to request unpaid parental leave of up to 18 weeks, taken in blocks of between one and four weeks per year. To make the application an employee must have a year of service with an employer, have responsibility for a child and, usually, give 21 days notice of any request for leave.
Please note that this is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.