Shared parental leave comes in early next year, introducing some significant changes to the existing regime of family-friendly leave. The aim is to give working parents more flexibility over how they share childcare. In particular, employers will have to get used to the idea of employees taking multiple periods of leave during their child’s first year.
HR professionals listening to the recent Personnel Today webinar on preparing your organisation for the new right were asked to submit their questions on how shared parental leave will operate. The answers to some of these are being added to the XpertHR FAQs section in the coming weeks.
We start off with a look at the basics of how shared parental leave will operate and how it fits in with existing family leave arrangements.
How will shared parental leave operate?
Shared parental leave is aimed at giving parents more flexibility over how they share childcare during the first year of their child’s life. They will be able to take it in turns to have periods of leave to care for the child, and/or take leave at the same time as each other.
A mother who meets the eligibility requirements will be able to bring her maternity leave to an end and choose to take shared parental leave with her partner, who must also meet the relevant eligibility requirements. Up to 50 weeks’ shared parental leave can be shared between the parents. The amount of shared parental leave that the parents can take between them is 52 weeks, minus the amount of maternity leave taken by the mother. The compulsory maternity leave period is reserved for the mother, therefore the mother cannot curtail her maternity leave until two weeks (or four weeks for factory workers) after the birth. However, the mother’s partner can begin a period of shared parental leave at any time from the date of the child’s birth. All leave must be taken within the first 52 weeks following the birth.
The leave does not have to be taken in one continuous block; employees can return to work and then take a further period of shared parental leave.
For more information, including when an employer can refuse a request for discontinuous leave, see How will shared parental leave operate?
What is the difference between shared parental leave and additional paternity leave?
Additional paternity leave is being abolished and replaced by shared parental leave.
Under the additional paternity leave provisions, which were introduced in 2011, the mother of a child can return to work before the end of her maternity leave, allowing the father, or mother’s partner, to take up to 26 weeks’ additional paternity leave.
The main differences between shared parental leave and additional paternity leave include the fact that:
- parents can take shared parental leave at the same time as each other; whereas a father can take additional paternity leave only once the mother has returned to work; and
- shared parental leave can be taken in multiple periods; whereas additional paternity leave must be taken in one block.
For more information on the differences, see What is the difference between shared parental leave and additional paternity leave?
Can employees still take ordinary paternity leave once shared parental leave is in force?
Yes, eligible employees will still be able to take one or two weeks’ ordinary paternity leave within the first 56 days following the child’s birth, once shared parental leave is in force. However there is some limitation on this right.
For more information, see Can employees still take ordinary paternity leave once shared parental leave is in force?
Other FAQs on the basics of shared parental leave recently published on XpertHR include:
- When does shared parental leave come in?
- Can both parents take shared parental leave at the same time?
- Are parents entitled to shared parental leave if their baby is due before 5 April 2015 but is born on or after that date?
- Are there any changes to the regime for 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave as a result of the introduction of shared parental leave?