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Pay heed to rules for parental leave.

Byline: EMPLOYER'S BRIEF Daniel J Krigers

A new entitlement for employees who are parents to take shared parental leave (SPL) came into force on December 1, 2014, and will apply to cases where a child is expected to be born on or after April 5, 2015.

As a starting point, mothers will still be entitled to take 52 weeks of maternity leave, with the first two weeks being compulsory leave and the first 39 weeks ordinarily being paid at statutory rates.

Two weeks of ordinary paternity leave will continue to apply, but the additional paternity leave provisions have been abolished.

If a mother wants to take advantage of the new SPL scheme, she must end the maternity leave period by giving a curtailment notice at least eight weeks before the date on which SPL will start.

A parent who wishes to take SPL must also submit a notice of entitlement and intention to take SPL at least eight weeks before the date on which SPL will start, including a declaration from the other parent consenting to the proposal.

The employer is entitled to ask for a copy of a birth certificate to confirm the entitlement. Then, at least eight weeks before the start of SPL, the employee must give the employer a period of leave notice, specifying (unsurprisingly) the period of leave which an employee wishes to take. If this is one continuous period, the notice must be accepted. If there is more than one period requested, the employer has two weeks to accept the request, propose alternatives or refuse it. If the request is refused, the employee may take the amount of leave requested continuously or withdraw the original notice. The employee is entitled to submit up to three notices in total.

Terms and conditions of employment continue to apply during periods of SPL except those relating to remuneration, as is currently the case for different types of family leave.

Employees may also undertake up to 20 days' work without bringing any SPL period to an end.

In addition to the above conditions, there are other eligibility requirements which apply relating to length of service, minimum earnings and relationship to the child.

Both parents must agree the amount of SPL to be taken between them and it must be taken in multiples of complete weeks, within the period commencing with the date on which the child is born and ending up to 52 weeks later.

This leaves various scenarios for parents in terms of what leave can be taken concurrently: Both parents can take SPL at the same time; existing unpaid parental leave can be taken at the same time as SPL; SPL can be taken at the same time as the father takes two weeks' paternity leave; SPL can be taken at the same time as the mother takes maternity leave, provided the mother has given notice to curtail her leave (as explored above).

All periods of SPL are paid at the current statutory rate of PS138.18 per week. However, the first six weeks of maternity leave continue to be paid at 90% of earnings.

It remains to be seen whether or not the new system sees significant take up from fathers, given that just 0.6% of eligible fathers took additional paternity leave once the right came into force. What is clear is that the new rights are likely to cause a much greater workload for those administering the leave.

Daniel J Krigers is an employment law solicitor at Chadwick Lawrence Solicitors


New parental leave entitlements are anything but child's play for employers
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jan 13, 2015
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