Parents will be able to share “Maternity Leave”

Maternity leave could be shared. Heather Cowley (inset)
Maternity leave could be shared. Heather Cowley (inset)

For some time the Government has been looking at ways to give parents more freedom to decide how best to take “maternity and paternity” leave to suit the needs of their family.

In particular, the Government has recognised that many fathers want the option to stay at home to take care of their new baby or new adoptive child.

The Children and Families Act 2014 has received Royal Assent and draft regulations have now been published which will enable parents to share statutory leave after a child is born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015.

The draft regulations are complicated. Businesses will need to make policy decisions and set up internal processes to deal with proposals made by employees intending to take the new Shared Parental Leave (“SPL”) next year.

Taylor Walton is providing free employment workshops designed to assist and prepare Directors and Managers without in house HR resource and HR Managers with this change. Details are set out below:

In brief:

Sharing SPL

Subject to satisfying the relevant eligibility criteria parents will be able to share 50 weeks of the leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay.

SPL Entitlement Notice

The notice must be given by the relevant parent to their relevant employer at least eight weeks before the parent wishes to start their first period of SPL. The mother must at the same time serve notice on her employer which will inform her employer:

1. that she does not wish to take statutory maternity leave;

2. how much SPL the mother intends to take; and

3. contain a declaration that the father has given such notice to his employer.

Broken Periods of SPL

Where an employee has requested a continuous period of SPL and properly served notice the employee will be entitled to take the requested leave.

If separate blocks of SPL are requested the employer has a limited period of time in which to propose new dates of leave or refuse the period of leave. If there is no agreement on the proposal the employee may withdraw the notice or take the total amount of leave requested as a continuous period of SPL.

Varying SPL Periods

Once an employee is entitled to a particular period of SPL they may give notice to change the start date or end date of that period subject to certain conditions.

The parent can also, subject to certain conditions, change a continuous period of SPL into a broken period of SPL, vary the amount of SPL requested or cancel the leave requested.

The right to return to work

If a parent takes a total of 26 weeks of SPL or less, they are entitled to return to the job they had before they took any SPL.

If the total leave is in excess of 26 weeks, then the parent would be entitled to return to the job they had before SPL but if that was not reasonably practicable they may be given a job that is both suitable for them and appropriate in the circumstances.

Employee Protection

Employees will have the right not to suffer a detriment or be unfairly dismissed in connection with the right to SPL. This protection will apply to any acts or failure that occur after 1 October 2014.

As stated above the regulations are complex and I encourage you to attend one of our workshops so that you can ensure that your business is equipped to deal with this change.

Taylor Walton’s Employment Law team regularly runs free workshops on various employment law topics and issues – please see our website for more details: www.taylorwalton.co.uk/events

The information given in this article was, at the time of publication, believed to be a correct statement of the law. However, readers should seek specific legal advice on matters arising, and no responsibility can be accepted for action taken solely in reliance upon such information.

Heather Cowley is the Head of Employment Law at Taylor Walton LLP, which has offices in Luton, Harpenden and St Albans and provides effective legal solutions to businesses and individuals across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and the South East. Heather can be contacted on 01582 731161 or email heather.cowley@taylorwalton.co.uk