Shared parental leave: What you need to knowby
The government has published its response to the consultation on the administration of shared parental leave and pay at the beginning of December. The CIPP's Diana Bruce has put together a handy fact sheet to help employers deal with the changes.
The new system is due to come into force in April 2015.
The key elements of the government response are as follows.
Maternity and paternity
- Maternity leave and pay unchanged at 52 weeks’ maternity leave and 39 weeks’ maternity pay/allowance (in case of single mother or one or both partners not eligible for shared parental leave (SPL))
- Paternity leave and pay unchanged (two weeks in one continuous block)
- Additional paternity leave and pay to be abolished
- New right to unpaid time off for fathers to attend up to two ante-natal appointments (strictly speaking up to 6.5 hours for each appointment)
- Notification periods for paternity leave and pay will be aligned with the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth or as soon as reasonably practicable
- Women who give binding notice before birth to end their maternity leave will have up to six weeks following the birth to revoke that notice
- Employees will need to give eight weeks’ notice of their eligibility to take shared parental leave and will need to include a non-binding indication at the outset of when they expect to take the leave
- Employees will be required to give eight weeks’ notice to take specific periods of leave, or to change a previous notification. There will be cap of three on such notifications unless both employer and employee agree by mutual consent that a request will not count towards the cap
- The time limit for taking shared parental leave will be set at 52 weeks from birth
- Parents to be allowed to have up to 20 days at work per parent while on shared parental leave. The days that will be available to parents on shared parental leave will be renamed to distinguish them from KIT days for use during the maternity leave period. The KIT-type days on shared parental leave will be additional to the 10 KIT days which will continue to be available to a woman while she is on maternity leave
- Employees who take shared parental leave will have the right to return to the same job when returning from periods of statutory leave comprising of maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave that totals 26 weeks or less in aggregate; even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks
- Statutory adoption leave to become a day one right, abolishing the requirement for 26 weeks’ continuous employment
- The current notification arrangements for adoption leave and pay will apply to employees who qualify for adoption leave and pay under the new fostering-for-adoption placement process
- Eligible adopters will also be able to take shared parental leave
- Statutory adoption pay enhanced to mirror statutory maternity pay, i.e. first six weeks at 90% of AWE
- New right to time off for adopters to attend adoption meetings: Paid time off to attend five meetings for the primary adopter and unpaid time off for the secondary adopter to attend two meetings
- The age limit for unpaid parental leave will increase from children under five to children under 18
- Parents in surrogacy cases who qualify for a parental order (i.e. there is a genetic link to the baby between one or both of the intended parents) will be eligible for unpaid time off to attend up to two ante-natal appointments as well as statutory adoption pay and leave and, if eligible, shared parental leave
- At any point once a mother has completed her period of mandatory maternity leave she can decide to end her maternity leave and enter a period of SPL
- The mother and her partner must both meet the basic eligibility criteria in order to take SPL. The criteria are: Both must have worked for any 26 weeks out of 66 weeks preceding the baby's due date and have earned at least £30 gross salary per week for any 13 of those 66 weeks. SPL is not available if one or both parent does not fulfil these criteria.
- Once the mother has declared that she wants to end her maternity leave, she must decide with her partner how they want to divide the remaining leave and pay
- Both parents complete form ShPL1 advising how much leave and pay remains from the initial entitlement and the dates they wish to take leave. They will need to give eight weeks’ notice of their eligibility to take shared parental leave and will need to include a non-binding indication at the outset of when they expect to take the leave
- The parents can change their minds as long as they give at least eight weeks’ notice of absence
- When a woman gives notice to end her maternity leave on a specified date and she and/or her partner has notified their employer that they are eligible and plan to take SPL and/or ShPP (i.e. submitted a ShPL1 form) then the mother's notice to curtail her maternity leave on the date specified is binding. She does not necessarily have to return to work on that date. She may stay off on SPL if she is eligible or absent from work on some other kind of leave. But her maternity leave and pay period will end on the date specified in her binding notice of curtailment
- There are certain circumstances in which a woman who has given binding notice to curtail her maternity leave and/or pay can revoke her notice:
o If the mother has submitted her notice before the birth she has up to six weeks after the birth to change her mind. This applies to birth mothers not adopters. Where her partner has already started taking SPL and/or ShPP the entitlement stops. However, as with APL an employer may require the partner to stay off work on unpaid SPL for eight weeks. The maternity leave is restored to 52 weeks and pay to 39 weeks
o Where the couple have opted into SPL but the mother has not yet returned to work and her partner dies she may revoke her notice to end her maternity leave and stay on maternity leave and pay. Any SPL or ShPP taken by the partner is disregarded and maternity leave and pay is restored in full. This applies to birth parents and adopters
o If the parents discover during the eight week notice period that they do not meet the eligibility criteria for SPL, then the mother will continue with maternity leave and the father will not be eligible for anything other than his paternity leave
- Leave must be taken in blocks of no less than a week (a week is defined as “any period of seven days” which is the same as that applying to additional paternity leave)
- Both parents can be on SPL together, though obviously if they are off together for one week, then that reduces the balance by two weeks
- If both parents submit their suggested leave patterns to their employers, each employer has two weeks in which to agree or disagree. If disagreement, the parents must reconvene to decide on alternative plans and re-submit to employers
- An employer can refuse the employee’s suggested leave patterns, however, if no agreement can be reached, each employee must take their SPL in one continuous block, but of a date of the employee’s choosing
- The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) hopes to lay the bill before parliament in April 2014
- Although SPL applies to babies born after 6 April 2015, it needs to be in force 2014/15 to allow for premature babies
A copy of the government response and the administration consultation document can be found on the GOV.UK website.
While these details do not come as a surprise to the CIPP, indeed we have been advising our members of the intricacies of shared parental leave for some time now, we are still concerned at the burden these complex provisions may pose for employers.
Diana Bruce is the senior policy liaison officer for the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP).