Couples who are just finding out now that they are expecting a baby will be the first to benefit from new rules on shared parental leave.
Eligible women who are due to give birth on or after 5 April 2015 may be able to share their maternity leave with their partner, allowing them to return to work should they wish, and their partner to spend more time with his new baby. The rules will also apply to couples who are adopting a child.
Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of Maternity Leave, along with 39 weeks Statutory Maternity Pay. They will still be required to take a minimum of two weeks off, but after that, an eligible mother will be able to end her Maternity Leave early and opt for Shared Parental Leave instead. If both she and her partner qualify under the new rules, they can then decide how they want to split their leave entitlement between them. They can then take their leave at any time within a period of 52 weeks after the child’s birth.
Each parent will have to give their employer a breakdown of how they plan to share their leave, at least eight weeks before it starts. They will be able to take their leave at the same time if they wish, and they also have the option of changing their plans twice during the year-long leave. The mother’s partner will also get a new right to unpaid leave to attend up to two antenatal appointments.
Couples will have the option of asking to take their share of the leave in alternating blocks or all in one go. However, in a concession to businesses, bosses will have to agree any proposed pattern of time off, and they will also have the right to insist it is confined to a continuous block.
In order to qualify for Shared Parental Leave, on the date that falls 15 weeks before the baby is due, the mother must have worked for the same employer for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks. The other parent has to have worked for 26 out of the 66 weeks leading up to the due date – though not necessarily continuously, or for the same employer – and for 13 of those weeks they must have earned above £30 per week.
To qualify for Shared Parental Pay, a parent must also have earned an average of at least £111 per week for the 8 weeks prior to the 15th week before the baby is due.
The proposals are currently before Parliament and are expected to come into effect on 1 December 2014. They will apply to parents of babies due to be born on or after 5 April 2015.
Beecham Peacock can advise on all areas of Employment law. For more information contact 0191 2323048 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.