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Shared Parental Leave and Pay: What employers need to know

The new Shared Parental Leave regulations greatly increase the flexibility for parents when taking leave to care for children – with inevitable consequences for employers when it comes to dealing with the admin issues. Eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters will be able to choose how to share a ‘pot’ of time off work to look after new children, so they can both be off at the same time, or take turns to have ‘blocks’ of leave over a total 52 week period.

How does Shared Parental Leave work?
The new rules apply to babies due or adopted on or after 5 April 2015. Employers could start to receive notice of the intention to take Shared Parental Leave from employees from
February 2015.

Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of Maternity Leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay. However, under the new rules a mother can opt to end her maternity leave early and, with her partner or the child’s father, opt for Shared Parental Leave instead of Maternity Leave.

Shared Parental Leave may be taken at any time following the initial two weeks of compulsory maternity leave (four weeks in the case of manual workers) within the period which begins on the date the child is born (or placed for adoption) and ends 52 weeks after that date.

Each eligible parent can give their employer up to three separate notices to book or vary leave. A notice can be for a block of leave or for a pattern of ‘discontinuous’ leave involving different periods of time. Employers cannot refuse requests for a continuous block of leave but can turn down requests for discontinuous blocks. It is recommended that employer and employee discuss a solution that works best for both parties.

During discussions, employers may wish to consider:

  • important company events
  • upcoming busy periods
  • covering the role
  • impact on customers.

Employees must provide their employer with a notice of booking at least eight weeks before the leave is due to start, detailing how much leave they are entitled to and how much they intend to take.

Who can qualify?
To qualify, the mother or adopter must be eligible for statutory maternity or adoption entitlements and must share the main responsibility for caring for the child with the child’s father or their partner.

For a parent to qualify for Shared Parental Leave they must be an employee and they must pass the continuity of employment test, whereby they must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the due/matching date and still be employed in the first week that Shared Parental Leave is to be taken.
In turn, the other parent in the family must meet the employment and earnings test, whereby they must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 week in 13 of the 66 weeks.

Shared Parental Pay
From April 2015 Statutory Shared Parental Pay is paid at £139.58 or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). If the mother or adopter curtails their entitlement to maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance before they have used their full entitlement then Shared Parental Pay can be claimed for any remaining weeks.

To qualify for Shared Parental Pay a parent must pass the continuity of employment test and also have earned an average salary of the lower earnings limit of £111 for the 8 weeks prior to the 15th week before the expected due date or matching date. The other parent in the family must meet the employment and earnings test.

More information and advice for employers and employees can be found at the ACAS website http://www.acas.org.uk and at www.gov.uk (search for shared parental leave).