Shared parental leave and flexible working

SAVE ITEM
father holding up a child

19 / 6 / 2014 Midnight

A new system of shared parental leave (SPL) will apply to parents whose babies are due on or after 5 April 2015. In the case of adoptions the new system will apply in relation to children matched with a person or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015. These provisions are being implemented under the Children and Families Act 2014 and accompanying regulations will come into force from 1 October 2014 onwards. The regulations are available on the GOV.UK website.

 Flexible Working Regulations effective from 30 June 2014

The Government have published the Flexible Working Regulations 2014, which come into force on 30 June. The Regulations extend the statutory right to request flexible working to all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service under Part 9 of the Children and Families Act 2014 (CFA 2014). In addition, they remove the requirement that the right is only available to parents of children under 17 (18 if the child is disabled) or to carers of adults. The Regulations state that employers must deal with requests in a reasonable manner and within a reasonable period of time (three months unless an extension is agreed). For more information, please read the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service has produced an accompanying Code of Practice which you can access here.

Main provisions of the new regulations: 

  • Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave. The mother can switch part of her statutory maternity leave and pay into shared parental leave and shared parental pay. Shared parental leave and shared parental pay will be available provided the parents satisfy the eligibility requirements.
  • In the 52 week period there will be two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave (four weeks if they are manual workers) which the mother must take. 
  • Eligible parents will then be able to share the remaining maternity leave and pay between themselves.
  • Fathers will still be entitled to two weeks basic paternity leave. The two weeks paternity leave will be reviewed in 2018 and possibly extended. 
  • Mothers with partners (who must also meet the qualifying conditions) will be able to end the mother's maternity leave and pay and share the untaken balance as shared parental leave and pay. 
  • Employees who have taken shared parental leave are protected from less favourable treatment as they will have the right to return to the same job if the total leave taken is 26 weeks or less in aggregate, even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks. 
  • Any subsequent leave will attract the right to return to the same job, or if that is not reasonably practicable, a similar job.
  • It will be up to the parents how they share the parental leave – they could take it in turns or take time off together, provided they take no more than 52 weeks of this leave, combined in total.
  • Additional paternity leave and pay will be abolished.

Requests for shared parental leave

Employers may start getting requests for shared parental leave from parents with children due in April 2015 which were conceived from July 2014 onward. This may be difficult as information is still emerging on the details and the regulations are complex and lengthy. There will inevitably be some initial claims from employees who feel their employers are not giving them their rights under the new system. Employers should take legal advice or deal with requests cooperatively until everyone comes to terms with the new system.  

As well as the above, the NHS also offers a range of flexible working arrangements to support parents and carers in the workplace. Further details on what flexible working options are available can be found here.

Blog

As part of this month's celebrating diversity, Paul Deemer's, head of equality, diversity and human rights at NHS Employers, has written an amusing yet informative blog on his experiences as a working parent and the challenges of childcare. Go to our blogs section of the website to read it. 

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