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Part two: Shared parental leave – how to manage the flexibility of leave

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.

family friendlyIn the first of our series of blogs, we looked at the initial administration required to implement the new scheme and the three key areas of eligibility, entitlement and evidence. In our second blog we look at how leave can be managed, record keeping requirements and the importance of an up to date policy.

Managing leave

Once M has curtailed her maternity leave, the remainder is available to be split between the parents.

The flexibility of SPL means that parents can take leave consecutively or concurrently and are not prevented from coming up with seemingly complex arrangements that suit their needs. Leave may be taken as either continuous (a single block of leave) or discontinuous (for example “every other week over a four-month period”). They are entitled to do so as they see fit, subject to a limited right of refusal (see blog number three). Each block has to be requested formally with a “Period of Leave Notice”, served at least 8 weeks in advance. Under the new regulations employees are only entitled to serve up to three notices to “book” SPL

Accordingly, employers may only be given 8 weeks’ notice that an employee will be absent for either a long period of time or one or more shorter absences.

The importance of an agreed strategy and good organisation therefore cannot be overstated. Key to this will be effective communication between HR and the individual’s manager.

Questions to consider:

• How do I cover my employee’s absence?

• How do we make sure we know where he/she is supposed to be at any given time?

• Where, and how, do we record the necessary information?

• How will you manage SPLIT days (Keeping in touch days) whilst the employee is off work?

Record keeping

Accurate record keeping is imperative! There is a legal requirement to keep records for HMRC on shared parental pay (ShPP) but it is also good practice to keep records of the following information:

• Details of employees taking part in the scheme;

• Copies of all notices;

• Evidence of eligibility (if provided);

• Details of internal consideration of requests for periods of discontinuous leave, where applicable;

• Details of any meetings/discussions regarding the taking of SPL; and

• Information pertaining to SPLIT days.

The better your records, the easier it will be to manage the scheme effectively and successfully.

Questions to consider:

• What information will you record?

• How do you propose to capture and retain that information?

• What is the best system for your business – who will collate and manage the data?

Policy, practice and potential pitfalls

It is prudent to formulate a company policy that can be relied upon by both staff and managers. It should cover pay and benefits, reasons for refusal, the process that must be followed and the rights and responsibilities of employees and their managers. The questions set out above are a good starting point. Ensure that all stages of your process are free from discrimination and are transparent and effective.

Once drafted, the policy should be communicated to staff and managers, and training given to relevant personnel. It should then be followed in practice, with deviations only for unusual situations or for employees with extenuating circumstances.

Potential Pitfalls:

• Not everyone is eligible

• It is not a day one right

• Check entitlement to ShPP or risk not being able to recoup from HMRC

• Be prepared for short notice to arrange cover for staff

• Asking for evidence – how, what, when and why?

• Record details, discussions and decisions

• Ensure you have a thorough policy that meets your business needs

• Act in accordance with your policy once drafted

• Train managers and staff to apply it fairly when acting with discretion

Our shared parental leave hub is your resource for all shared parental leave issues and contains all our latest blogs.

Keep up to date and follow us: @dwf_employment

 

 

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Legal news, views, trends and tools for HR Professionals. Stay ahead. Go further