The most significant change for parents since the introduction of maternity and paternity leave is happening in 2015. This is not the only family oriented change to be seen this year and in fact, it appears that 2015 is the year of the family, with parents – both natural and otherwise, being given more rights than ever before to take time off work in relation to their family plans.

Shared parental leave is a new system for taking time off when a baby is born or adopted and will run alongside the existing maternity, paternity and adoption leave entitlements. If both parents meet certain eligibility criteria, they will be able to share almost one year’s leave between them, in a pattern that is decided – mostly – by themselves. One of the criteria is that a baby must be due on or after 5th April 2015 for parents to qualify to take leave in this flexible way. An important aspect of the qualifying criteria is that both parents must individually meet their own criteria in order for the other parent to take shared parental leave.

Shared parental leave may also be taken by employees who are adopting a child on or after 5th April 2015, again subject to criteria. This is not the only legal change in relation to adoption entitlements. The requirement for an adoptive parent to work for their employer for at least 6 months before they become entitled to take statutory adoption leave was removed from the beginning of April, aligning it with the right to take maternity leave. Statutory adoption pay was also increased for the first 6 weeks of leave to 90% of the employee’s wage, with the remaining leave being paid at the statutory rate.

Also from the start of April, the entitlement to take statutory adoption leave was widened to include intended parents who receive a child in a surrogacy arrangement and local authority foster parents who are prospective adopters. Employees who are adopting now have a right to take time off work to attend adoption appointments – one of the couple will be able to take paid time off for these appointments, the other will take unpaid time off. Actual entitlements will differ depending on who is designated the primary adopter and who is the secondary adopter.

Parents are now able to take statutory parental leave (unpaid leave to be taken in blocks of one week in order to spend time with children) up to their child’s 18th birthday. Previously, it was only permitted until the child’s 5th birthday.

Statutory maternity, adoption and paternity pay increased to £139.58 from April, and statutory sick pay (SSP) increased to £88.45.

The adult rate of the National Minimum Wage will increase to £6.70 from October 2015, and although this is not yet confirmed, regulation over the use of zero hours contracts will be introduced.

If you need any clarification on this issue then please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.