It’s been about a year since Shared Parental leave (SPL) came into effect, applying to babies born or adopted from 5 April 2015, and practices may begin to see an increase in the number of parents taking advantage of it.
What is SPL?
In essence, SPL allows the mother to curtail her maternity leave and exchange any remaining time for SPL, which lets both parents share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay between them. It is the same for adopters – the parent can curtail their adoption leave and exchange it for SPL to share with their partner.
Both men and women are eligible for SPL and if a practice employs both parents, they could potentially be awayat the same time. But this does have benefits for the employer: unlike maternity leave, SPL can be discontinuous, enabling a parent to return to work to assist with peaks in demand (such as winter) without forfeiting the remainder of their leave. If an employee asks for discontinuous leave and it is not convenient, a practice can refuse or propose alternative dates.
SPL must be taken between the birth of the child and the day before their first birthday (or within the first year of the adoption), in multiples of complete weeks.
Rather like standard maternity leave, SPL allows for up to 20 keeping-in-touch days.
How can I prepare for SPL?
You should update any family-friendly policy to make reference to SPL and notify employees of this change. Also ensure that the practice keeps track of the deadlines for the different provisions of notice – diarising is key to ensure that the important deadlines are not missed (when the mother needs to give notice for ending maternity leave and starting SPL), and to keep track of the continuous and discontinuous leave periods.
You are not obliged to offer contractual SPL pay, but if you do, ensure that it is offered to employees of both genders to avoid any claims for discrimination.
Although it is not compulsory, you may wish to ask for a copy of the child’s birth certificate and details of the other parent’s employer, for your records.
Joanne Payne is an employment solicitor at Hempsons