In April 2015 new rules related to the shared parental leave will come into force as announced by Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)  The new legislation means that fathers can take more time off work to share in the upbringing of their baby in the following 50 weeks after the birth.  Any shared parental leave fathers take will be in addition to the existing two weeks paternity leave.  Father will soon have the right to two days unpaid to attend ante natal clinics.

A new mother will be able to convert statutory maternity leave and pay into shared parental leave and shared parental pay in the year following the birth of a baby.  Shared parental leave and shared parental pay will also be available to adoptive parents and parents through surrogacy.

There will be a two stage eligibility test.

Stage 1 (the joint test): for an employee to qualify for shared parent leave and shared parental pay, their partner must meet the economic activity test. This means they must have worked for any 26 out of the 66 weeks preceding the baby’s due date and have earned at least £30 gross salary per week for any 13 of those 66 weeks.

Stage 2 (the individual test): In order to be eligible for shared parental leave, the parent must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with the same employer at the 15th week before the baby’s due date and still be working for the same employer when they intend to take the leave.

To qualify for shared parental pay, the parent must have earned an average salary of the specified amount, or more (the Lower Earnings Limit – currently £109 per week) for 8 weeks prior to the 15th week before the baby’s due date.

Shared parental pay will be at the statutory level therefore pay for 39 of the 52 weeks will be based on the salary of the parent who is on leave. For the first six weeks the person on leave will receive 90% of his or her average weekly earnings before tax, after that it will be 90% or £136.78 – whichever is lower – for 33 weeks.

Parents will decide how much leave to take, whether they take the time off together or in turns. They have the right to return to the same job as they did before they went on leave provided the  total leave (maternity, paternity and adoption leave) does not amount to more than 26 weeks. If the leave amounts to more than this then they have the right to return to a similar job. 

Employees will need to give a non-binding indication at the outset of when they expect to take the leave.  They will be required to give eight weeks notice to take specific periods of leave, or to change a previous notification.  Employees will be able to take a maximum of three blocks of leave unless their employer agrees to more. Employers will not be able to refuse leave, but they will be able to refuse discontinuous blocks of leave eg if someone asks for two six-week periods of leave, an employer can insist that it is taken as a single 12-week block. Mothers must take a minimum two weeks of maternity leave to recover before they can split their leave with the father.

Parents will be able to have up to twenty ‘keeping in touch’ days at work per parent whilst on shared parental leave.  This well be in addition to the ten keeping in touch days for the mother as provided for in maternity leave legislation.

Employers should review and update their existing policies in the light of this forthcoming legislation.

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