New parents are now entitled to apply for shared parental leave. This provides more flexibility for the parental role to be shared as Sean McDonough, Partner at Mogers Drewett and Head of Employment & HR explains.
Since December 2014, employees who become new parents either by birth or by adoption can now take shared parental leave (SPL) in the first year of their child’s life, or in the first year after their child’s placement for adoption. For eligible parents, up to 50 weeks ofSPL and 37 weeks of Shared Parent leave Pay (ShPP) is available to take or share.
A mother or primary adopter can 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 Shared Parent Leave. SPL is optional and can either be taken consecutively or at the same time. ShPP is paid at a flat statutory rate.
To qualify for the scheme, both parents don’t need to be employees provided they both meet the ‘economic activity’ test which is; that they have been employed or self-employed in at least 26 of the 66 weeks immediately before the expected week of childbirth, and earning on average at least £30 a week based on any 13 of those weeks.
Therefore, provided the father has been economically active, the mother still has access to a more flexible SPL scheme. This means she will be able to take part of her maternity leave, go back to work, and then take a further period or periods of SPL at a later date, up to 52 weeks after birth.
Alternatively, where a father is an employee, but the mother is self-employed or recently unemployed, the mother has no maternity leave or SPL entitlement, but still qualifies for maternity allowance. By curtailing her entitlement to maternity allowance, the mother is able to give the father access to the SPL scheme, meaning he can take a period or periods of SPL.
The rules are complex and can be difficult to implement and understand. Employers will be very keen to monitor closely how the leave is taken and likewise, employees will be keen to ensure they get what they are entitled to. The successful implementation of the scheme relies on early communication between the employee and their employer about their parental leave plans.
For further information or advice on this subject please call 01749 342 323