Proposals on the new system of Shared Parental Leave were published recently by the Government, providing more clarity for employers on how this incredibly flexible process will process will operate in practice. Administration of the process will be more difficult than it is currently and employers will need to get used to moveable childcare arrangements when the system is implemented in relation to babies born from April 2015.

Although a woman will be able to retain the right to 52 weeks’ maternity leave under the current system if she wishes, she will be able to give notice to her employer that she wishes to end her maternity leave and opt into shared parental leave. This will mean that she and her partner will be able to take discontinuous periods of leave between them up to the child’s 1st birthday. Similar provisions will apply to adopters.

The main provisions that have been confirmed are:

  • The mother will have to give her employer 8 weeks’ notice that she wishes her maternity leave to end and 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;
  • 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;
  • 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 days each during their leave without it affecting their statutory pay. These will work in the same way as Keeping In Touch days that are currently in use for maternity, adoption and additional paternity leave. However, only 10 of these days are currently allowed. Those in use for ShPL will be given a different name to avoid confusion;
  • 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.

Other proposals confirmed at the same time were:

  • The removal of the service qualification period to take adoption leave. It will be available to employees from day 1 of employment;
  • Extension of the current adoption leave provisions to those in a surrogacy arrangement where they will be applying for a parental order;
  • A right to unpaid time off for fathers/mother’s partners to attend ante-natal appointments;
  • Adopters will be permitted time off work for adoption appointments.

The changes will be implemented via the Children and Families Bill, for any further information please the advice service on 0844 892 2772.