Parents can now share their paid leave
Now fathers and partners as well as mothers can take time off with their new baby.
Shared Parental Leave is being introduced to enable both parents to be able to take paid time off to look after their child within the 52 weeks following the birth.
Due to come into force on 1st December 2014, the new regulations will apply for any baby born on or after 5th April 2015. The regulations also apply to Adoption, so will apply to any child adopted on or after 5th April 2015, so adopting parents may take this time off within the 52 weeks following the placement of the child.
How does it work?
As normal, the first two weeks after the birth of the child is compulsory maternity leave. This compulsory leave remains as four weeks for factory workers.
The remainder of the 52 weeks after the birth (50/48 weeks) can be shared by both parents. They can decide to be off work at the same time and/or take it in turns to take time off to look after their child providing that there is some untaken maternity leave to share.
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) can be taken in a maximum of three separate blocks of leave. So, for example, the mother may decide to take sixteen weeks’ maternity leave, beginning six weeks before the baby is due and has given you notice that this is her intention.
This would mean that there are 36 weeks’ leave (Shared Parental Leave) remaining and 23 weeks’ pay (Shared Parental Pay [ShPP]) remaining.
This remaining leave and pay can then be shared by both parents as either a continuous block or separate periods of leave (in complete weeks), referred to as ‘discontinuous’ leave, provided you have been given at least 8 weeks’ notice before each period of leave.
You may refuse periods of discontinuous leave and request that the leave be taken in a continuous block. However, if the request is for continuous leave, you must agree. It may be beneficial, therefore, to meet with your employee early on to discuss the leave and agree how the leave will be taken.
How do you qualify for Shared Parental Leave?
In order to qualify for Shared Parental Leave, the baby’s mother, or the primary adoptive parent, must have worked for you continuously for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the baby’s due date or the date on which the adoptive parent is matched with their adopted child.
They must also be eligible for maternity leave/pay or maternity allowance or, in the case of adoption, the adoptive parent must be eligible for adoption leave/pay.
How does the notice work?
Your employee must give you at least 8 weeks’ notice of their intention to opt for Shared Parental Leave. In the case of a child being born more than 8 weeks’ early, this notice period can be shorter.
They must include their maternity leave start and end dates and state the total amount of Shared Parental Leave and Shared Parental Pay remaining; their partner’s name; and how much of Shared Parental Leave and Shared Parental Pay they each intend to take.
The notice to ‘book’ Shared Parental Leave must also include a signed declaration from their partner confirming that they are eligible to get Shared Parental Leave ie. they have worked for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 per week in 13 of those 66 weeks; that they agree to share the Shared Parental Leave and Shared Parental Pay; and give their name, address and National Insurance Number.
As this will apply to babies born, or children placed for adoption, on or after 5th April 2015 it is likely you could begin to receive notice of intention to take Shared Parental Leave from January 2015.
Does this automatically replace Maternity Leave?
No, pregnant employees will still be entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave and 39 weeks’ statutory maternity pay or allowance. If they wish to opt to take Shared Parental Leave, they must comply with the above.
What happens about Paternity Leave?
The two weeks’ paid paternity leave will still be available for fathers and partners, taken as a one or two week block within 56 days of the birth.
Will Additional Paternity Leave and Pay remain?
Additional Paternity Leave and Pay will remain in force for eligible fathers until 4th April 2015.
Shared Parental Leave In Touch Days (SPLIT)
An employee on Shared Parental Leave may work for up to 20 days during their period of leave without the leave coming to an end. These days are called Shared Parental Leave In Touch Days or SPLIT and are in addition to the 10 existing Keeping In Touch (KIT) Days which are already available to those who are on maternity/adoption leave.
What Records Do I Have to Keep?
As with Maternity/Adoption leave/pay, you must keep records for HM Revenue & Customs showing the dates Shared Parental Pay began and the payments made, including the dates; the amount of Shared Parental Pay you have reclaimed; any weeks where you didn’t pay Shared Parental Pay and why; the evidence given by your employee to show their eligibility for Shared Parental Pay.
These records must be kept for at least 3 years from the end of the tax year in which the payments were made.
Should you need any assistance when receiving a notice of intention to take Shared Parental Leave, please book a consultation.