While the new method for taking leave after having a baby – ‘Shared Parental Leave’ – will not actually come into play until 5th April 2015, employers should start thinking now about how to manage the new flexible procedures.

Flexibility is certainly the key word when it comes to Shared Parental Leave. The main feature of it means that the baby’s mother and father will be able to share leave between them and can mean that alternate, discontinuous periods of time off are taken by both parents for the maximum duration. Although the new system will only be triggered when the baby is due on or after 5th April 2015, this means that the babies’ conception will take place from summer 2014 so employers will need to understand the entitlements for when staff ask.

The main provisions that have been confirmed are:

– The mother will have to give a non-binding indication of when they expect to take their ShPL. 8 weeks’ notice will also have to be given of any leave they will actually be taking;

– The mother will have to give her employer 8 weeks’ notice that she wishes to opt into the Shared Parental Leave (ShPL) system. This will be a binding notification but the mother will be able to revoke this up until 6 weeks after the birth;

– There will be a limit on the number of times a parent can notify their employer to take a period of ShPL, set at three;

– Parents will be entitled to work for 20 Keeping In Touch days each during their leave without it affecting their statutory pay;

– Employees will have the right to return to the same job if the total amount of leave taken is 26 weeks or less. A later return will entitle the employee to return to the same job if reasonably practicable or if not, a similar job of the same seniority.

Here are some important dates:

Summer 2014: babies in relation to whom the new system will apply will be conceived;

Autumn 2014: earliest point at which employers are likely to become aware that an employee is pregnant and may take leave under the new rules

January 2015: the earliest point at which maternity leave under the new system may be started;

February 2015: the earliest point that notices will be received from mothers indicating they want to take shared parental leave

April 2015: first period of shared parental leave to be taken (after 2 weeks compulsory maternity leave which cannot be shared).

It is expected that Shared Parental Leave will involve significantly more administration than the current maternity and paternity leave system, because the flexibility permitted means that an employee may be in and out of the business much more frequently during the entire period during which leave may be taken.

Contact Peninsula online for advice on this issue, or call us on 0844 892 2772.