As of 1st December 2014, new regulations have been put into place to allow both parents greater flexibility in sharing their Statutory Parental Leave (SPL) and will apply to parents adopting or having babies on or after 5th April 2015. Government figures suggest that up to 285,000 working couples will be eligible to share leave according to these regulations, changing the way employers and couples see maternity / paternity leave.
The new rules still mean that mums take a minimum of 2 weeks (4 weeks in a manual or factory type role) Maternity Leave immediately after birth as legal recovery time; but the following 50 weeks leave can be shared, as can the initial 37 weeks paid leave, reflecting changes to modern family life in which fathers often do as much home parenting as mothers. 2 weeks Paternity Leave will still be available for fathers, but Shared Parental Leave will replace Additional Parental Leave.
Parents will be able to decide how to split this leave, and the new regulations mean that those eligible will be able to stop and start SPL for up to three periods throughout the 50 weeks.
This will, of course, have ramifications for businesses, especially small businesses, as maternity or paternity cover may not be for a set period, making it difficult to find cover for these roles in shorter, separate chunks. As always, we fully recommend speaking to ACAS about any difficulties to find out best practice to ensure the best solution for both employee and organisation.
Leave taken in a continuous, unbroken period of leave is a statutory right which employers cannot refuse
A discontinuous block will include 1 or more breaks where the employee returns to work. This needs to be discussed as discontinuous leave can only be taken with both employer and employee agreement. After the request for discontinuous leave has been made, the employer and employee have 14 calendar days to reach agreement. If discontinuous leave is not agreed then leave must be taken as a continuous block.
It is a good idea to review company Maternity / Paternity Leave policy and to update to accommodate the new regulations, and to make employees aware of their entitlement, how to apply and the requirements for entitlement to SPL.
This should also include details about how many periods of leave will be available, the process and person responsible for handling notice to book leave, the time limits involved, Keep in Touch Day policy and the payments available.
For more details about the new regulations and how best to implement them, please go to www.acas.org.uk or www.gov.uk
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