According to a recent survey by the law firm, Linklaters, almost two thirds of men and women say they would be interested in the new right to Shared Parental Leave (SPL). This is significantly higher that the Government’s estimate which was between 2% and 5%. Around a third of those surveyed said that they would prefer to take the SPL at the same time as the child’s mother which will help families spend more time together after the birth or adoption of a child.
Eligible employees will be able to take SPL with effect from 1 December 2014. The changes are designed to allow more flexibility for both parents to take leave on the birth or adoption of a child.
The right to additional paternity leave and pay will be abolished from 4 April 2015, although the right to ordinary paternity leave and pay will remain unchanged.
Employees may be entitled to SPL and statutory shared parental pay (ShPP) if:
- their baby is due on or after 5 April 2015 or
- they adopt a child on or after 5 April 2015
Under the new scheme up to 50 weeks of SPL and 37 weeks of ShPP will be available for eligible parents to take or share.
A mother or adopter will be able to end their maternity or adoption leave or commit to ending it at a future date and share the untaken leave with the other parent as SPL. This will enable mothers and adopters to return to work before the end of their leave without losing the rest of the leave that would otherwise be available to them.
SPL can be taken consecutively or concurrently as long as the total time taken does not exceed what is jointly available to the couple.
There are detailed regulations concerning eligibility and the procedure to be followed if you wish to take advantage of the new scheme. Further information can be found here
Both parents have to agree between them how much SPL they will take. Neither can take SPL unless the other has signed a declaration giving their consent to the division of leave.
SPL must be taken in the period between the child’s birth or placement and first birthday or the first anniversary of their placement in adoption cases.
SPL has to be taken in multiples of complete weeks.
When working out how much SPL is available to each parent, you will need to calculate the total amount of available leave by starting with 52 weeks and deducting the amount of the statutory maternity leave period that the mother has taken (or will take) before she returns to work or curtails her entitlement.
If you include maternity leave, paternity leave and shared parental leave the total amount of leave available to the couple is 54 weeks of which 2 (compulsory maternity leave) are reserved for the mother and 2 (ordinary paternity leave) are reserved for the father.
As with other rights, employees are protected from being subject to any detriment or from being dismissed for taking or making use of the benefits of SPL or where the employer believes that the employee is likely to take SPL.
Whilst there is enthusiasm for the new rights, there is likely to be some hesitation from fathers. Half the fathers surveyed said that they would not take a period of SPL if other male colleagues declined to take it.
For further advice on this or any other employment rights, please contact one of our employment lawyers on 0845 070 0505 (Please note: Calls to this number will cost approximately 4p per minute plus your telephone company’s access charge).