Parents now have greater flexibility in how they share the care of their child in the first year after birth as new regulations regarding Shared Parental Leave (SPL) come into force today (1 December 2014).
The new rules, which apply to couples with babies due or children matched or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015, will allow parents to choose whether they want to share the mother’s maternity leave.
There are expected to be as many as 285,000 working couples that will be eligible to share leave from April 2015. The changes in how maternity leave can be used will kick start a culture change in workplaces where fathers feel more confident in taking time off for childcare.
Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said:
The new Shared Parental Leave rules will give real choice to parents. We all know that every family has its own unique set of circumstances, and Shared Parental Leave reflects that reality.
Up until now, families have had very limited options when it comes to juggling the demands of work with the arrival of a new baby. The old maternity leave system reinforced the archaic assumptions that the bulk of childcare responsibilities should be done by mums, and failed to recognise the vitally important role that dads and partners have to play.
Mothers and adopters will be able to choose when they return to work and fathers and partners will be able to spend more time bonding with their children during the precious early stages of their development.
Under the new rules, mums will still take at least 2 weeks of maternity leave immediately after birth, but after that working couples have the opportunity to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.
The increased flexibility that Shared Parental Leave will create will be good for families, good for business and good for the economy. Businesses already recognise that employees are more productive and motivated when given the opportunity to work flexibly, and Shared Parental Leave will help employers to retain committed and knowledgeable staff.
Shared Parental Leave is just one strand of a wider programme of measures that the government has introduced to create a modern work environment and provide greater opportunities for parents and families - including the right to request flexible working and increased access to childcare and school meals.
ACAS Chair Sir Brendan Barber said:
Many employers recognise that they can retain talented staff by offering a flexible approach to work and a healthy work life balance can help business success and growth.
Shared Parental Leave will enable working parents to share maternity or adoption leave to allow both parents greater involvement with their child’s first year whilst employers have the potential to remain productive by agreeing new arrangements that work for their organisations.
As workplace experts, we have published a new free guide on Shared Parental Leave to help employers and employees understand how the new changes will affect them and how to manage leave requests fairly.
Notes to editors:
- Acas guide on Shared Parental Leave
- The Shared Parental Leave system will give parents more choice and freedom over how they share the care of their child in the first year after birth. Full details are available at Shared Parental Leave. Only eligible employees can apply for Shared Parental Leave.
- The pattern of leave must be agreed between the employer and employee, with 8 weeks’ notice. Parents can take leave at the same time, so they can be at home together from the birth if this is arranged.
SPL – how it will work:
- Shared Parental Leave must be taken in weekly blocks. It can be stopped and started, so periods of work can be interspersed with periods of leave for childcare. Each parent notifies their employer of their entitlement and “book” the leave with at least 8 weeks’ notice
- an employee can book more than 1 period of leave in a single booking notification
- an employee may submit up to 3 booking notifications, and more if the employer agrees
- where requested as discontinuous blocks, the employer may require the employee to take leave in a continuous block, at a date chosen by the employee
- each parent can use up to 20 SPL “in touch” days to go into work, so could effectively take Shared Parental Leave and work on a part-time basis for a period
SPL can be taken at any time in the first year following the child’s birth/placement