Press release

Parents-to-be begin the countdown to Shared Parental Leave

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Eight weeks to go until mums and dads with babies due on or after 5 April 2015 can start sharing up to 50 weeks of parental leave.

With just 8 weeks to go until mums and dads with babies due on or after 5 April 2015 can start sharing up to 50 weeks of parental leave, expectant parents need to have that all-important conversation with their employers.

285,000 working couples a year are expected to be eligible for Shared Parental Leave (SPL) with parents giving their employers 8 weeks’ notice of the pattern of leave they intend to take.

Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said:

Shared Parental Leave will kickstart a change where fathers feel empowered to take time off to look after their kids and not feel constrained by outdated stereotypes. We recognise that this isn’t going to be easy for those at the forefront of the change but we also know that for many dads the nerves they feel about having a conversation with their boss around leave will be worth it in the end.

Countless research studies show that more time with dads early on leads to better outcomes for children, not to mention the special family bond it creates. We also know that many employers are incredibly supportive and keen to offer mums and dads more flexibility. Employers will see the benefit in terms of staff loyalty and providing women the option to return to work earlier. That’s why employers like Shell, Deloitte, Linklaters, PwC and the civil service are offering parents enhanced shared parental pay in line with their maternity packages.

To help parents understand their rights and responsibilities, BIS and Acas have a top tips guide to Shared Parental Leave:

  • the first thing to do is make sure you are eligible for Shared Parental Leave. This quick and easy online tool will do the hard work for you
  • talk to your partner before speaking to your employer. The combinations are flexible so make sure they fit around your life and work for you as a couple. Maybe you want to double up in the early days for extra support or you might decide to tag-team halfway through – the choice is yours
  • have the conversation with your employer as early as you can. The sooner you do, the easier it will be to make plans for your time away from the work. Remember you have to give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice of your intention to take Shared Parental Leave
  • check to see if your employer offers an enhanced package (a package over and above statutory), and if they do, what type of package it is
  • most importantly, know your rights. No employers can opt out of Shared Parental Leave if you are eligible

Acas Chair Sir Brendan Barber said:

Businesses and employees should familiarise themselves with these new rights now as there are less than 8 weeks to go until Shared Parental Leave is available to working parents expecting a child on or after 5 April (2015).

As workplace experts, we have published a new free guide on Shared Parental Leave to help employers and employees understand how these new changes will affect them and how to manage leave requests fairly.

Our advice to eligible employees and their employers is to start having early discussions about the different options available so that preparing and planning the leave is as straightforward as possible. We are also running training courses to help employers prepare for the legal changes.

Brie Rogers Lowery, UK Director of Change.org said:

Offering 18 weeks fully paid parental leave is good for our staff and good for our business and we’re already seeing the benefits to both just months after launch. We believe that equalising parental leave makes for happier parents and children, and therefore is better for business. We’d love to see businesses across the UK take up the challenge.

Real life case study:

Nic Stevenson and his wife Katy will share the upbringing of their son Eddy, who was born last September (2014). Although they became parents before the introduction of the new shared parental leave rights, Nic will take 6 months off from March (2015) to look after his son when his wife returns to work.

Nic said:

I grew up without my dad being around very much, and although I had a brilliant network of male role models, I feel that I missed out by not having my dad there, and as importantly, I feel he missed out too.

From Eddy’s perspective, I think having both mum and dad raising him for an equal amount of time will help him to develop as a person who values equality and realises that men and women are equally suited to any role they set themselves too. I hope it is also good for his development as an individual, physically and educationally – and everything I have read about splitting the parenting indicates it should be.

Notes to editors:

  1. To speak to Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson or SPL case study Nic Stevenson, contact the BIS press office.
  2. The Shared Parental Leave system will give parents more choice and freedom in how they share the care of their child in the first year after birth. Only eligible employees can apply for Shared Parental Leave.
  3. This will enable both mothers and fathers to keep a strong link to the workplace; encourage fathers to play a greater role in the early stages of their child’s life; and allow employers and employees greater flexibility in reaching agreement on how to best balance work and domestic needs without state interference.
  4. Shared parental leave and pay comes into effect for babies due on or after 5 April 2015, or adoptions where the child is placed on or after 5 April 2015.
  5. Under the scheme, working couples will be able to share untaken maternity leave and pay, following the first 2 weeks recovery period that mothers have to take off after birth, so up to 50 weeks leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared.
  6. 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 arranged.
  7. Findings from a recent survey by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that more than half of the UK believes that childcare should be shared equally between parents. Some 53% of those questioned said that childcare should be the equal responsibility of both parents while a further 22% believe that a couple should have the right to choose how they divide caring responsibilities, depending on their circumstances. Just under a quarter of those surveyed believe that childcare should be the mother’s main responsibility, with more than half of men thinking that childcare should be shared equally, compared to 50% of women.

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.