The new incoming right to shared parental leave (SPL), and the flexibility this affords new parents, is a fairly major sea change. It is also a cause of concern to millions of employers, who perceive it as difficult to manage without adversely affecting the smooth running of their businesses. There is a further fear that it will require vast amounts of management time to implement correctly.
However, the new regime is not as daunting as it initially appears, and our series of blogs will address the main topics of concern – how to administer the scheme, how to manage leave, the ability of employers to refuse leave, and how to deal with pay and benefits.
In the first of our series of blogs, we look at the initial administration required to implement the new scheme. Getting the paperwork right early is key to effective and pain-free scheme management. The three main areas to consider at the outset are eligibility, entitlement and evidence.
An eligible employee whose baby is due on or after 5 April 2015 has the right to end her maternity leave early and share the remaining leave (up to a maximum of 50 weeks) with their eligible partner. However, not every parent with a child due on or after 5 April will be eligible for SPL. Whilst eligibility will depend in part upon the circumstances of their partner, one parent passing the eligibility test will not necessarily mean that the other parent will also do so. Similarly, whilst only employees are entitled to take SPL, both parents don’t need to be employees; those who are partnered with self-employed individuals may still qualify so long as the partner meets certain eligibility conditions. Some employees may therefore be eligible for, and opt to take, SPL even though their partner is not entitled to share it with them.
This may sound confusing, but it is actually very straightforward – only if all the prerequisite conditions are met is the parent eligible, as can be seen in our Ten ticks for SPL guide.
Remember though, that being eligible for SPL does not automatically equate to being eligible for Shared Parental Pay (“ShPP”), so this needs to be checked separately.
Entitlement to “Opt In”
The default position will remain that a mother, or main adopter, (“M”) will take “traditional” maternity, or adoption, leave. If eligible, however, she is entitled to curtail that leave and she or her partner can take SPL. M must give her employer at least 8 weeks’ notice, in writing, and must also serve a “Notice of entitlement and intention to take SPL”, stating how much leave is available to the parents and how they plan to use it. It should also include a signed declaration from the other parent indicating their consent. An eligible employee may only give three leave notices to take SPL and so the maximum number of blocks of leave an employee may take is three.
An employer is then permitted to request a copy of the child’s birth certificate/adoption documents and the details of the other parent’s employer. Whilst it would not necessarily be inappropriate to contact that company, it is not the responsibility of an employer to “check up on” the entitlement of the other parent – the signed declarations provided by him/her is all that is needed.
Questions to consider:
• Do you want to routinely ask for evidence?
• If so, how are you planning on using that information?
• If you don’t propose to routinely seek evidence in this way, and instead plan to consider it on a case by case basis, how will you ensure that any requests made are not tainted by discrimination, personal bias or other unfairness?
In Part two of our SPL blogs we consider how to manage continuous and discontinuous leave, record keeping requirements and the importance of a shared parental leave policy.
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