What employers need to know about the new shared parental leave regulations

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What employers need to know about the new shared parental leave regulations

01 Dec 2014

The new shared parental leave (SPL) regulations are in force from today (1 December 2014).  The parents of any child born, or adopted, on or after 5 April 2015 will be able to take advantage of the new SPL regime, subject to satisfying certain qualifying criteria.

SPL means the mother’s maternity leave allowance, with the exception of the first two weeks post child-birth, can be shared with the father to suit the individual parents’ needs. This right is in addition to the current two weeks of paternity leave allowed for new fathers.

To be eligible to apply for SPL, a parent must have been employed for 26 weeks before the end of the fifteenth week before the baby’s due date. The other parent must have worked for 26 weeks of the 66 weeks leading up to the birth and must have earned over £30 in 13 of those weeks. To be eligible for shared parental pay (SPP), both must have earned an average salary of at least the lower earnings limit (currently £111) prior to the fifteenth week before the baby’s due date.

Employees must give their employer at least 8 weeks’ notice that they wish to take SPL. An employee can only submit a maximum of three notices (but employers can allow more). Parents can request SPL either in one continuous block or in separate, discontinuous periods, which can mean employees are on and off work intermittently. The minimum period of leave which can be requested is one week. Employers are unable to refuse requests for continuous leave, but can do so for discontinuous blocks.

Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) is to be paid at the same rate of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). Employers should be aware that if they have an enhanced maternity pay policy then they could potentially be subject to discrimination claims from fathers who only receive statutory SPP. However, in the recent tribunal case of Shuter v Ford Motor Company, the employer justified having enhanced maternity pay and only SPP by reference to its objectives of attracting more females to its workforce.

Therefore, employers may find that if they can justify the reasons for the disparity in allowances they can successfully defend a discrimination claim. However, it should be noted that this case could be overturned on appeal so employers should beware. Employers could consider offering enhanced SPP. Before doing this employers should consider the costs of doing so, but also the potential positive impact on employee relations.

An initial action that employers should start considering now is drafting a policy for employee handbooks concerning the operation of SPP and SPL. In drafting this policy, employers should consider the way in which they will go about considering SPL requests, and in particular those for discontinuous leave.

For more information on the new SPL regulations and their potential impacts on your business, please contact us or call our Employment Team on 0161 832 3434.

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