HR Solutions have prepared a brief guide to help you familiarise yourself with the new Shared Parental Leave legislation.
On 1st December 2014 new employment laws came into effect allowing parents to split parental leave between them. Shared Parental Leave (SPL) applies to the parents who are responsible for any child due (or placed for adoption) on or after April 5th 2015. It is intended to increase shared parental involvement during the first year of parenthood between the mother, or primary parent, and either of the following:
the child’s other parent
the mother’s husband, wife or civil partner
the joint adopter of the child
the mother’s partner, provided they live with the mother and the child
However, the legislation has caused some confusion regarding existing maternity and paternity leave rights. With that in mind, we have created an eight point overview to help you understand your duties as an employer…
1. Who does the law apply to?
To be eligible for SPL a mother must have a partner, be entitled to either maternity leave or statutory maternity pay and have given notice to reduce their maternity leave in order to take SPL (known as notice of curtailment). Their partner must be in employment, must share the primary responsibility for the child with the other parent at the time of birth and must have given correct notice to their employer.
A parent seeking SPL must also satisfy both the ‘continuity of employment test’ and the ‘employment and earnings test’.
2. How long can someone take off?
An employee’s entitlement of SPL is calculated from the mother’s maternity leave, which is a total of 52 weeks. If the mother reduces the amount of maternity leave then her partner may opt in and take any remaining weeks as SPL. The leave can be taken in up to three separate periods, known as discontinuous blocks, and can be taken in periods of no less than one complete week.
3. How much do I need to pay?
Employees who qualify for SPL are entitled to a statutory pay rate of £139.58 per week from April 5th 2015 (or the current statutory maternity pay rate at the time). Employees are entitled to 90% of their average weekly earnings should this figure be lower than the set rate.
4. Can parents take leave at the same time?
Yes, provided appropriate notices are given. If a mother gives curtailment notice to reduce her leave, then her partner can take leave at any point thereafter.
5. What kind of notice will employees need to give?
Any employee planning to take SPL must first provide a notice of entitlement, which has to be submitted at least eight weeks before the intended first date of leave. The actual period of leave can be booked at any point following submission of the notice of entitlement. An employer must respond to a discontinuous leave request within 14 calendar days, or the leave will default to a single period of continuous leave from the same date.
6. Can I request evidence?
Aside from checking that the employee meets the continuity of employment and earnings criteria (as you would for periods of statutory maternity pay), the notice of entitlement is sufficient evidence of an employee’s right to SPL. An employer can request a copy of the child’s birth certificate (if one is available) and can also request the contact details for their employer’s partner’s employer. If a request is made, the details must be provided within 14 calendar days.
7. Can I refuse my employee leave?
SPL is a legal entitlement that qualifying employees have a right to take. Leave may be taken either in a continuous period, which an employer cannot refuse, or in a discontinuous period, which the employer can refuse in certain circumstances. If a request for discontinuous leave is refused, then the total amount of leave requested will automatically become a continuous block unless the employee withdraws their request.
8. Should I make an SPL policy?
It is a good idea to update your policies to reflect the legislative changes. Policies should cover the procedure for notification of entitlement to SPL, notice to leave, employee contact during SPL and entitled payment, amongst other details.