Following the introduction of new legislation regarding a change in employee entitlements over maternity and paternity leave, employees expecting a child due on or after the 5th of April 2015 may be entitled to Shared Parental Leave in the first year of the child’s life. This will allow parents to share 50 weeks of leave between themselves and they will be able to decide how they wish to split the leave.

Placing the structuring of the shared parental leave with the parents means there is likely to be fragmented periods of absence which was previously controlled through the guidelines governing maternity and paternity leave. Although it is thought only a minority of new parents will opt into shared leave, as employers it is important you understand how the introduction of the new legislation could affect your current procedures.

Guidelines & Restrictions
There are certain guidelines that, as employers, you should be aware of as not every employee will be eligible for Shared Parental Leave and pay. Shared Parental Leave(SPL)  generally operates along the same guidelines as Maternity Leave or Maternity Allowance, therefore the employee must qualify for either one or both of these in order to be entitled to SPL. As well as this they must also satisfy all of the three regulations:

  1. by the end of their 15th week of pregnancy they must have worked for an uninterrupted period of 26 without leave or unauthorised absence.
  2. a member of your company for the duration of the SPL, leaving the business will invalidate their eligibility.
  3. follow the formal procedures regarding handing in a notice, this is to include the relevant information about their partner in order to prove that both parents meet the demanded requirements for SPL. (Their partner must also have been employed at the same company for an uninterrupted period of 26 weeks).

Where the employee fails to meet one of the aforementioned criteria then as their employer, you have the right to refuse SPL without offering a reason; this will be subject to your discretion. However in cases where the employee is eligible they or their partner must end their adoption or maternity pay early in order to share the next 50 weeks between them. SPL is to be used instead of maternity or adoption leave and therefore the employee must provide you with a date which they intend to return to work which once formally agreed, is non negotiable.

Despite the introduction of legislation, it is thought that due to the strict guidelines which both parents must fulfil, many new parents will fail to qualify; choosing to opt for either Maternity or Paternity leave instead. As a result it is anticipated that whilst the effects of the legislation might be felt by certain employers, it likely to cause no more disruption in terms of extended periods of employee absence than laws that are currently in place.

If you’re unsure or need further information regarding your rights as an employer, our team of employment law solicitors can help. Contact us here.