An introduction to Shared Parental Leave for employers

An introduction to Shared Parental Leave for employers

As an employer you should be aware of the new legal requirement Shared Parental Leave (SPL) that came into effect in England, Scotland and Wales in December 2014. Employers must prepare themselves for the increase of couples using their SPL entitlement. Countries that already have in place a similar policy have seen figures of parents sharing their maternity entitlement skyrocket.

According to estimates from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), there are expected to be around 285,000 working couples in England, Scotland and Wales who will be eligible to share their leave from April 2015.

What is Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)

Your employees maybe entitled to SPL and ShPP if their baby is due on or after 5th April 2015 or they adopt a child on or after 5th April 2015. SPL and ShPP is required to be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday and in the case of adoptive parents they have to take SPL and ShPP within one year of adoption. Parents will remain entitled to take maternity, paternity and adoption leave. However, an eligible mother or adopter may now choose to reduce their maternity/adoption leave early and opt in to SPL. The benefit of this is that they can share the parental care with their partner either taking time off together or in separate blocks.

All birth mothers are required to take the first two weeks as a recovery period immediately after the birth of their child. They were then entitled to 50 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay. Fathers were entitled to two weeks paternity leave at the time of birth and up to a further 26 weeks parental leave once the child is 20 weeks old, if the mother had chosen to return to work. Now after the two weeks recovery period for the mother the couple can decide to share the maternity leave and pay of up to 50 weeks leave and 37 weeks of pay.

Example: Sarah and Dave are both eligible for SPL. Sarah ends her maternity leave after 16 weeks, leaving 36 weeks of the entitled 52 week entitlement for SPL. Sarah decides to take 26 weeks and Dave takes the other 10. Sarah has a block of 6 weeks and then her and Dave alternate weeks until their entitlement is used up.

Employees Eligibility

Not everyone will qualify for SPL. If the mother is eligible but the partner isn’t then the mother can still benefit by using SPL to book leave in separate blocks.

Eligibility Criteria

The Government guidelines rule that to be eligible for SPL the following must apply;

The mother must:

  • have a partner
  • be entitled to maternity/adoption leave; or to statutory maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance (if not eligible for maternity/adoption leave)
  • have curtailed, or given notice to reduce, their maternity/adoption leave, or their pay/allowance (if not eligible for maternity/adoption leave).

The employee must also:

  • have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (or by the date they are matched with their adopted child)
  • be employed by the same employer while taking SPL

A parent who intends to take SPL must:

  • be an employee
  • share the primary responsibility for the child with the other parent at the time of the birth or placement for adoption
  • have properly notified their employer of their entitlement and have provided the necessary declarations and evidence.

During the 66 weeks before the baby is due the partner must:

  • have been working for at least 26 weeks (they don’t need to be in a row)
  • have earned at least £30 a week on average in 13 of the 66 weeks

They can be employed, self-employed or an agency worker.

Statutory Shared Parental Pay will also apply if they:

  • qualify for statutory maternity pay or statutory adoption pay
  • qualify for statutory paternity pay and have a partner who qualifies for statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance or statutory adoption pay

Employers SPL process

On becoming aware of a pregnancy or adoption match discuss the employees intentions and let them know the leave options such as maternity, paternity, adoption, flexible working, SPL etc..

Remember all qualifying employees have the legal right to choose to take SPL. It is therefore important to start a dialog with the employee as soon as possible. As an employer you can refuse discontinuous leave but the employees’ entitlement still remains giving them the requested weeks as a single block. The employer has the right to suggest arrangements and periods which suit the organisation better than the employees’ original request and see if the they are agreeable.

When an employee notifies you of their decision to take SPL the next step is to hold a meeting in order to discus how they wish to take their leave and how the company can and will accommodate them.

Upon receiving official notification of an employee booking SPL your actions will depend on if the proposal of leave is in a continuous block or is discontinuous. Continuous leave can not be refused. However, if the employee proposes a discontinuous block of leave then you have 14 days to consider how this will affect your business and what you would need to do to accommodate the request if you choose to grant it.

Your final decision should be discussed with the employee to ensure mutual understanding and to avoid any confusion.

Employers Shared Parental Leave Policy

It is recommended but not compulsory for an employer to have an SPL policy, the employer just needs to ensure their employees know how to apply for SPL and must still meet the statutory requirements in the legislation.

An SPL policy however will ensure consistency and compliance allowing the employer to set out the working arrangements and the employee’s rights. You can include it in your maternity/paternity policy or have a stand alone policy. ACAS has developed an SPL policy template that employers can download and adapt to suit their business.

For more information on SPL or to download the templates go to www.acas.org.uk/spl