Business Law & Compliance

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Shared Parental Leave comes into practice 5 April

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SPL has been available in Sweden since 1974 and The Economist reported in July 2014 that approximately 90 per cent of Swedish fathers take paternity leave.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills published a report entitled “Modern Workplaces: Shared parental leave and pay administration consultation – impact assessment” in February 2013 while they first considered the Bill. It predicted that between two to eight per cent of fathers would utilise SPL. 

This weekend, an eligible mother or adopter will be able to choose to end their maternity or adoption leave early and opt into SPL. And additional paternity leave, which gives a father extra leave if the mother has returned to work and is not claiming statutory maternity pay, will be replaced by SPL. At the moment, however, few eligible parents use this right.

Eligible employees will be entitled to up to 50 weeks’ SPL. This is based on the mother’s or primary adopter’s entitlement to take up to 52 weeks’ leave.

Read more about shared parental leave:

Parents will be entitled to statutory maternity pay or adoption pay or maternity allowance for up to 39 weeks. If a parent gives notice to reduce their entitlement, the parent and their partner may be entitled to receive Shared Parental Pay for any remaining weeks.

Shared Parental Pay will be £139.58 per week, or 90 per cent of an employee’s average weekly earnings from 5 April 2015.

Employees must notify their employer that they are entitled to SPL and must give eight weeks’ notice of intention to start their leave. Otherwise it will be assumed that for the mother, the usual maternity ordinary (26 weeks) and additional (a further 26 weeks) leave entitlement will apply unless the employee gives notice to the contrary.

One of the main decisions that employers and organisations have to make is what they’re going to do when it comes to pay; either to enhance SPL or not, and if they should change existing provisions for maternity or paternity leave. 

Parents have been able to apply for SPL since 1 December 2014 and businsses need to put in place a policy to deal with requests and ensure that their decision is communicated to all employees. 

Employers should review payroll arrangements to ensure that accurate records are kept as enhanced Shared Parental Pay schemes may also be something you wish to consider.

Senior employment lawyer at Slater & Gordon Jim Lister suggested that “businesses are not yet convinced that Shared Parental Leave is a positive. But these changes are coming, and they present an opportunity for progressive businesses to integrate shared parental leave into the wider benefits package. I am confident that if the change is welcomed at the top of organisations and appropriate processes are put in place straight away, businesses can differentiate themselves positively in the eyes of their employees.”

He added: “Businesses should see this is as a scheme enabling women employees to return to work and I believe that before long it will be commonplace. In years to come I think businesses will simply accept that both men and women could take periods away from the office after the birth of their children.”

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