As of the 1st December, new parents are entitled to apply for shared parental leave providing more flexibility for the parental role to be shared. Sean McDonough, Partner at Mogers Drewett and Head of Employment & HR explains the new rules.
Currently, employees have a right to maternity and paternity leave. Under the new scheme Employees who become new parents either by birth or by adoption can 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 (i.e. everything other than the comp mat leave)
A mother or primary 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. 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 they have been employed or self-employed in at least 26 of the 66 weeks immediately before the expected week of childbirth 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 will still have 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 she, but will qualify for maternity allowance. By curtailing her entitlement to maternity allowance, the mother will be 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 they will be difficult to implement and understand initially. 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 success or otherwise of the new scheme will ultimately be down to early communication between the employee and their employer about their parental leave plans.
For further information or advice on this subject please see www.md-solicitors.co.uk or call 01749 342 323