The much-heralded introduction of shared parental leave means that employers must formulate a new procedure to enable mothers to end their maternity leave early and take their remaining leave as shared parental leave with their partner.
We set out 10 steps for HR professionals to follow when drafting their shared parental leave policy. The new right is available to employees expecting a child on or after 5 April 2015.
Shared parental leave policy: more resources
1. Explain the concept of shared parental leave
Shared parental leave is a brand new employment right with rules that will be alien to HR staff, employees and line managers, particularly the possibility that a new mother will be able to end her maternity leave so soon after the birth of her child.
The shared parental leave policy should explain the concept of shared parental leave and the reasoning behind it.
2. Set out how much shared parental leave is available
The shared parental leave policy should explain that the amount of shared parental leave to which an individual is entitled will depend on when the mother brings her maternity leave period to an end and the amount of leave that the other parent takes in respect of the child.
The policy can also set out how shared parental leave can be taken, for example that the leave must be taken in blocks of at least one week.
3. Define who is eligible for shared parental leave
For employees to be eligible to take shared parental leave, both parents must meet detailed eligibility requirements.
For example, the employee must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment with the employer ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. And the employee’s partner must have been employed or been a self-employed earner during at least 26 of the 66 weeks immediately preceding the expected week of childbirth.
The shared parental leave policy should state who is eligible to take shared parental leave.
Shared parental leave: FAQs
4. Detail the notice requirements for shared parental leave
The shared parental leave policy should provide details of the notices that parents must normally give to be able to take shared parental leave.
The three types of notice are as follows. Firstly, a “maternity leave curtailment notice” from the mother setting out when she proposes to end her maternity leave.
Secondly, a “notice of entitlement and intention” from the employee giving an initial, non-binding indication of each period of shared parental leave that the employee is requesting.
And finally a “period of leave notice” from the employee, setting out the start and end dates of each period of shared parental leave that the employee is requesting.
5. State what happens if a continuous period of shared parental leave is requested
The shared parental leave policy should provide that, if the employee submits a period of leave notice requesting one continuous period of leave, they will be entitled to take that period of leave.
A maximum of three period of leave notices (or variations of notice) per pregnancy, whether for continuous or discontinuous periods of leave, can be submitted by each parent.
6. State what happens if discontinuous periods of shared parental leave are requested
If the employee submits a period of leave notice requesting discontinuous leave, the employer can consent to the leave.
However, as the shared parental leave policy should explain, the employer can propose an alternative pattern of leave or even refuse the pattern of leave requested (but the employee must then be given the opportunity to take the leave as one continuous period of leave).
Shared parental leave policy: enhanced shared parental pay?
7. Spell out how much shared parental pay is available
Employers should offer in their shared parental leave policy either the statutory minimum shared parental pay or contractual shared parental pay.
For employees to be eligible for statutory shared parental pay, both parents must meet certain eligibility requirements.
For employers that already enhance maternity pay, one of the biggest decisions to make in their shared parental leave policy is whether or not they also enhance shared parental pay.
A failure to enhance statutory shared parental pay when maternity pay is enhanced could put an employer at serious risk of sex discrimination claims from its male workforce.
8. Clarify employees’ rights during shared parental leave
During shared parental leave, all terms and conditions of the employee’s contract except normal pay will continue. It is a good idea to give some examples in the shared parental leave policy of entitlements and benefits that will continue, such as holiday entitlement and pension contributions.
9. Acknowledge the right to keep in contact with the employee during shared parental leave
Employees can be made aware via the shared parental leave policy that the employer can maintain reasonable contact with them during shared parental leave.
An employee can agree to work for a set number of days during shared parental leave without that work bringing the period of shared parental leave and pay to an end. These are known as “shared-parental-leave-in-touch” (SPLIT) days.
10. Inform the employee of rights on returning to work following shared parental leave
The employee has the right to resume working in the same job when returning to work from shared parental leave if the period of leave, when added to any other period of shared parental leave, statutory maternity leave or statutory paternity leave taken by the employee in relation to the same child, is 26 weeks or less.
It is a good idea to include details in the shared parental leave policy of what happens when an employee returns from a period of shared parental leave.