Business Law: Shared parental leave ? what’s the catch? asks Lloyd Clarke
- Credit: Archant
A new system of flexible shared parental leave (SPL) is to be introduced in 2015. It has been described as an “utter nightmare” for employers, there is also a less talked about catch for employees.
For some time now the Government has been talking about overhauling the rights of parents to take time off work following the birth of a child. The current system is regarded as antiquated and doesn’t do enough to help new fathers. To the disappointment of many employers, it’s been confirmed that flexible shared parental leave (SPL) is to be introduced in 2015 in England, Scotland and Wales.
When this happens a new mother will be able to convert the majority of her 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave into SPL. While the first two weeks must remain as compulsory maternity leave, she and her partner will be able to share the remaining 50 weeks’ between them. Although they may choose whether to take this SLP at the same, in turns or in different blocks, each of them will be limited to a maximum of three blocks.
This new regime has been criticised by employers but things are not straightforward for employees either. Firstly, SPL is only going to be available to parents who: (1) are both working; (2) both have primary care responsibility for the child; and (3) have each been employed continuously by their employer for 26 out of the 66 weeks preceding the baby’s due date. Therefore, if a new mother wasn’t in work before her child was born, her partner won’t be able to request SPL.
A further complication is that, when it comes to pay during SPL, there are to be no enhanced statutory rights for employees. The parents will have to share what would have been the woman’s entitlement to statutory maternity pay (SMP) between them.
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In order to invoke SPL the woman will have to formally end her statutory maternity leave and waive her right to SMP. It’s likely that many employees won’t want to do this and the reality may be that the majority of parents will not be able to afford to take SPL.
: : Lloyd Clarke is an employment law solicitor with Attwells.
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