We've previously blogged about the Shared Parental Leave Regulations coming into force. The below is a reminder of what theses Regulations mean for businesses and if you have not put into place your policies, we recommend that you act now – our details are below.
Shared Parental Leave
On 1st December 2014 the new Shared Parental Leave Regulations came into force for babies due to be born, or parents who receive a date of placement for adoption, on or after 5th April 2015. This new right was introduced in order to provide parents with greater flexibility for taking leave during their first year with their child. The principle of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is straightforward but, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Regulations which are both lengthy and complex.
The intention of SPL is to change the attitude towards parental leave in the workplace, creating a truly flexible system of shared leave between parents. Change in this area began in 2011 with the introduction of Additional Paternity Leave (APL) for fathers. APL was not as successful as was expected, with less than 1% of eligible fathers exercising their right. It's anticipated that SPL will be more successful in shaking-up stereotypical workplace values.
Patterns of leave
One of the fundamental characteristics of SPL is its flexibility. There appears to be numerous patters of leave which employees can request. Parents can take leave together or separately, in one continuous block or a number of discontinuous blocks with parents having a statutory right to submit up to 5 leave requests during the total 50 week period. Therefore, employers will have to be prepared for the prospect of employees taking leave, returning to work for a period of time and then requesting to take further periods of leave at a future date.
Discontinuous periods of leave will change how employers approach the 'traditional' method of arranging cover during period(s) of maternity leave. On first blush, it seems that will not always be appropriate (or cost effective) to simply engage temporary or fixed term cover for the typical 12 month period of maternity leave. Advice at this early stage is to take stock of the practical and financial impact this form of leave might have on your business and take a view.
Shared parental leave policy
SPL comes with considerable procedural and administrative steps which employers will have to implement. In the main, the procedure, entitlement and notice provisions which employees will have to satisfy and/or follow will be contained and set out in the SPL policy. This highlights the importance for employers to ensure they have a sufficient SPL policy in place and style documentation to assist their staff with the application process.
At an absolute minimum, employers will have to implement a new SPL policy and review all current diversity and equality policies to ensure compliance and continuity with the new SPL provisions. An SPL policy should set out the eligibility criteria, employee leave entitlement, minimum notice periods and what evidence (if any) an employee will require to submit before they can start their period(s) of leave.