New rules came into force on 1.12.14 abolishing additional paternity leave and introducing shared parental leave (SPL). The rules allow a mother’s partner to share leave and pay when a baby is born. Jay Bhayani helps businesses to understand the rules that have caused widespread confusion.
The new rules maintain your employees’ rights to maternity leave and ordinary paternity leave, but, where eligible, parents (including same sex parents) of babies born or adopted from 5th April 2015, can share leave and pay in the first year of birth or adoption.
Mothers can convert up to 50 weeks of maternity leave and 37 weeks of statutory maternity pay into SPL. Parents will be able to take the leave together or separately, in one continuous period or discontinuously. They can request up to 3 blocks of leave, but you can agree to more and you can allow them to split each block into shorter periods. You can reject some, but not all, patterns of SPL requested but you cannot refuse a request for block leave, even if it disrupts the business.
Under SPL, your employee’s terms and conditions (other than remuneration) remain the same. You must allow them to return to the same job if the total aggregate amount of relevant statutory leave taken, including SPL, is 26 weeks or less. It is automatically unfair to dismiss, or select for redundancy, an employee when the reason or principal reason for the dismissal, or selection for redundancy, is connected to SPL.
So, what should you do now? Firstly, make sure you fully understand this complex scheme as employees are already asking about it. Then:
- Decide on your approach to SPL and pay
- Will you enhance pay for SPL or pay statutory rates only?
- Will you actively promote it?
- Will you routinely turn down requests for discontinuous SPL?
- How will you plan cover to minimise disruption?
- Put an SPL policy in place
- Amend your existing maternity, paternity or adoption leave policies
- Make line managers aware of the new rules and what they should do if they receive a request for SPL
Jay says “Of course we’re not sure what the full impact on business will be at the moment – that remains to be seen. However, I think the change will lead to a major shift in attitudes toward women in the workplace, and could eventually impact on the still present glass ceiling, leading to more ‘women of child bearing age’ in senior positions. Just because the women have the babies, it may not be them who take time out of their career in future. If that happens, and we see more men taking SPL, it could impact on industries such as manufacturing and engineering, traditionally thought of as ‘safe’ from disruption, and we could also see a major culture change too, with more women in work.