More complicated rules for you to get your head around
The Government has published its response to the ‘Consultation on the administration of shared parental leave and pay’ ahead of the policy becoming law. The new provisions are expected to be implemented by 2015.
Draft regulations setting out how the system will work will be published before the bill gets Royal assent but the following are the expected changes to the current provisions:-
- Eligible couples will be able to take up to 39 weeks of shared parental leave which can be taken together or separately, and it can be taken in turns rather than the mother going back and then the father taking the rest of the leave.
- Notice given to end maternity leave and start shared leave is binding if given before the birth. The mother has 6 weeks after the birth to revoke this notice and remain on maternity leave instead.
- Notice periods for paternity leave and pay will be the same i.e. end of 15th week before the expected week of childbirth or as soon as possible after the birth.
- The same mandatory information will be required for shared leave applications as is currently required for paternity leave applications. The notice period will be 8 weeks inclusive of a 2 week discussion period with the employer.
- No more than 3 periods of leave or changes to the date of periods of leave already agreed can be taken although mutually agreed changes won’t count.
- The time limit for taking leave will be 52 weeks after the birth rather than from the start of maternity leave.
- In addition to the current 10 KIT days for women on maternity leave there will be an additional 20 KIT days per parent to use whilst on shared leave.
- The right to return to the same job will remain if returning within 26 weeks whether that 26 weeks is taken continuously or in discontinuous blocks.
- A new fostering-to-adopt status will be introduced and will use the current arrangements for pay and leave as apply to adoption leave and pay.
- There will no longer be a 26 week continuous service qualifying condition for taking adoption leave.
- Statutory maternity pay and statutory adoption pay will be the same i.e. the first 6 weeks at 90% of salary then 33 weeks on SMP/SAP.
- Surrogate parents will get the same pay and leave as adopters currently get where they apply for a parental order.
- There will be unpaid time off work for the Father or the Mothers partner if they are not the same person to attend ante natal or adoption appointments.
The facility to take shared leave in turns could prove very disruptive in a small business. It will be difficult to take on someone to do a period of maternity cover when they will only be needed in blocks of a couple of months.
Currently, maternity leave cannot be broken to take holiday or any other form of leave and if it is the maternity leave is deemed to have ended however the provision to take leave in blocks in turn with a partner negates that argument and could open up the opportunity for those on Ordinary maternity leave to argue for a similar right to break it up.
With Mothers having 30 KIT days and Fathers/partners getting 20 this equates to 10 weeks when the employee can ask to work and must be paid but may actually not be required if someone is covering the maternity leave already.
In effect, the right to return to the same job after 26 weeks leave in total will be extended to both parents if they share the leave equally.
The right to time off for both parents to attend ante natal classes or adoption meetings could prove disruptive.
I haven’t seen anything on what rights an employer has to refuse a proposed pattern of shared leave as is the case with requests for flexible working.
We don’t know the details of the administrative arrangements yet but as the provisions become more wide ranging and extend rights to take leave to more people I can only conclude that it will be more complex despite the Governments assertions that they want to keep it as simple and straightforward as the current arrangements. That probably says it all!