Changes to the way parents can share maternity leave form part of the Children and Families Act 2014. Details as to how the proposed new system will work in practice are set out in draft legislation on which the Government is currently seeking views. See www.gov.uk.
The aim is to introduce more flexible, more equal arrangements aimed at allowing both parents to keep a strong link to their workplace.
Under the new system:
- Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave as a ‘day one’ right
- Mothers will be able to opt to end their maternity leave after the initial two-week recovery period – four weeks in the case of manual workers. Working parents can then decide how they want to share the remaining leave
- Fathers will gain a new right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments
- There will be a new statutory payment for parents on shared parental leave with the same qualifying requirements that currently apply to statutory maternity and paternity pay
- Those who have adopted a child will be entitled to the same pay and leave as birth parents
The legislation will:
- Allow mothers who give binding notice to opt into shared parental leave prior to giving birth to revoke the notice up to six weeks following the birth in order to make sure that every mother is able to remain on maternity leave, should she choose to do so, once she has given birth
- Require employees to give a non-binding indication of when they expect to take their allocated leave when they initially notify their employers of their intention to take shared parental leave. Employees will also be expected to give at least eight weeks’ notice of any leave they will actually be taking. This is to support businesses in being able to plan their workforce
- Introduce a limit on the number of times a parent can notify the employer to take a period of shared parental leave. The number of notifications will be capped at three (the original notification and two further notifications or changes). Provision will be made for changes that are mutually agreed between the employer and employee not to count towards this cap. The cap will enable parents to use the leave flexibly but reduce the uncertainty an employer may experience from an unlimited number of notifications
- Set the cut-off point for taking shared parental leave at 52 weeks following birth (or adoption)
- Create a new provision for each parent to have up to 20 days under shared parental leave to support them in returning to work. Parents will be able to use these days to return to work on a part-time basis for a limited time
- Maintain the right to return to the same job for employees returning from any period of leave that includes maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave that totals 26 weeks or less in aggregate, even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks. Any subsequent leave will attract the right to return to the same job, or if that is not reasonably practicable, a similar job
The changes are planned to come into effect for babies due on or after 5 April 2015 or for children matched or placed for adoption on or after that date.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.