Further details of shared parental leave system published

The government has responded to its consultation on the administration of shared parental leave and pay by announcing, among other things, that it will restrict the number of times that an employee is entitled to change his or her parental leave plans. It is thought that this may assist to create certainty for employers.

The framework for shared parental leave and flexible working is set out in the Children and Families Bill, which is currently going through Parliament with a view to the new system being implemented by 2015.

It is proposed that employers will only be obliged to accept three notifications of intention to take leave from an individual employee and that the three notifications cap will count the original notification and two further notifications or changes.

This means that an employer might not have to accept any more than three notifications to take shared parental leave on specific dates or changes to dates already agreed. Changes that are mutually agreed between the employer and employee will not fall within the cap.

The government had previously stated in the consultation that it did not intend to apply any limitation on the number of notifications of leave or ‘change requests’ or to limit the frequency of such notifications.

The consultation response also states that the government will:

  • align the notification periods with paternity leave and pay at the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (or as soon as reasonably practicable where a pregnancy is not identified until a late stage)
  • allow mothers to revoke their binding notice to end maternity leave, given prior to birth, up to six weeks after birth
  • require employees to provide the same mandatory information when opting into the shared parental leave system as is currently required when fathers take additional paternity leave
  • require employees to provide a non-binding indication of their expected pattern of leave as part of the notification of their eligibility and intention to take shared parental leave
  • set the cut-off point for taking shared parental leave at 52 weeks from birth
  • ensure that the right to return to the same or similar job is maintained 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
  • enable each parent to have up to 20 ‘keeping in touch’ days to use while on shared parental leave. As these will be in addition to the 10 keeping in touch days for maternity leave, they will be given a new name to differentiate them, and
  • set the notice period for parents taking shared parental leave at eight weeks, inclusive of a two-week discussion period

There are no changes to the current notification arrangements for adoption leave and pay for employees who qualify for adoption leave and pay under the new fostering-for-adoption placement process.

Instead, the government is to publish guidance to encourage employees who qualify under the new fostering-for-adoption placement process to give employers as much warning as possible.

At Palmers, our specialists can guide employers on what procedures they should be following when the new system is implemented, including dealing with shared parental leave decisions and advising on changes to employment contracts for staff returning to work after maternity leave. For more information about the employment law services we offer, please visit our website or contact Lara Murray, Karl Barnes or Charlotte Woolven-Brown.