Shared Parental Leave now into practice

20th April 2015

Since the turn of the month, Shared Parental Leave (SPL) has been in force across the UK with couples and adopters now able to share 12 months of leave after the birth of their child.

The scheme, which has been available in Sweden since 1974, is designed to help women return to the workplace and allow men to take a greater involvement in the early development of their babies.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) published a report titled ‘Modern Workplaces: Shared parental leave and pay administration consultation – impact assessment’ back in February 2013, where SPL was first considered.

Within the report the BIS forecast that two to eight per cent of fathers would utilise SPL to care for their new-born baby.

The Economist reported last July that as many as 90 per cent of Swedish fathers take up the opportunity of paternity leave with their employers.

From this month, any eligible mother or adopter will be able to choose to end their maternity or adoption leave early and opt in to SPL.

Additional paternity leave, which gives fathers extra time of if the mother has already returned to work and is not claiming statutory maternity pay, will be replaced by SPL.

Eligible employees will be entitled up to 50 weeks’ SPL, based on the mother’s or primary adopter’s entitlement to take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave.

New parents are entitled to statutory maternity pay or adoption pay or maternity allowance for a maximum of 39 weeks. Any mother that gives notice to reduce their entitlement can give their remaining weeks of Shared Parental Pay to the father.

Shared Parental Pay will total £139.58 per week, or 90 per cent of an employee’s average weekly earnings from 5 April 2015.

Employees must give their employer notice that they are entitled to SPL and provide a minimum of eight weeks’ notice of intention to begin their paternity leave.

Employers must also decide their standpoint with regards to pay – whether to enhance SPL or not, and if they chance existing provisions for paternity and maternity leave.

Jim Lister, senior employment lawyer, Slater & Gordon, believes that businesses are “not yet convinced that Shared Parental Leave is a positive”.

“But these changes are coming, and they present an opportunity for progressive businesses to integrate shared parental leave into the wider benefits package,” added Lister.

“I am confident that if the change is welcomed at the top of organisations and appropriate processes are put in place straight away, businesses can differentiate themselves positively in the eyes of their employees.

“Businesses should see this as a scheme enabling women employees to return to work and I believe that before long it will be commonplace.

“In years to come I think businesses will simply accept that both men and women could take periods away from the office after the birth of their children.”

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