25th May 2018
Introducing a child to your family should be one of the most important and happiest events of your life. What makes the experience of becoming a parent more incredible is the process of establishing a strong, unique and blissful bond with your child, and the most meaningful way of creating this relationship is with time.
Traditionally, while most working men are entitled to a two-week duration of paid paternity leave, the option to take a substantial amount of paid time off of work to care for a newborn has only been offered to mothers. Maternity leave currently stands at up to fifty-two weeks, with the first six weeks paid at 90% of the average weekly earnings, and the remaining thirty three being paid at £145.18 per week or 90% of the average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). The first two weeks of maternity leave are compulsory (https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave/pay).
The Shared Parental Leave (SPL) guidance is now in effect as an arrangement to enable mothers and fathers alike to spend priceless time with a new baby or adopted child in the first year of their life as part of a family, either taking leave separately, or else simultaneously, giving them the opportunity to really bond as a family unit. Parents are now given the option of sharing up to fifty weeks of leave including up to thirty-seven weeks of pay. This can be taken in three block absences, and is on top of paternity leave and the mandatory first two weeks of maternity leave; however, the two allowances (maternity/paternity leave and SPL) cannot be constituted in alignment with one another. Any time taken as maternity leave (apart from the first two weeks from birth or date of adoption) will be deducted from SPL. For example: The mother begins her maternity leave 4 weeks prior to having her baby but proceeds to exchange maternity allowance for SPL. The total amount of weeks she and the other parent or named partner will be entitled to would be 46 weeks.
Note: Shared Parental Leave does not replace maternity and paternity allowance. These are still available to parents who do not wish to take SPL.
While the obvious advantage to SPL would seem to be that fathers are given an equal opportunity to spend irreplaceable time at home with their children and for mothers to be able to continue with their career progression even after having a child, these circumstances of change are also profitable to all parents who are in work. This includes those who are adopting, same-sex couples, cohabiting couples and even those who are bringing up a child together, undeterred by them coming from a previous relationship.
Companies, especially smaller businesses, will find that will find that the implementation of Shared Parental Leave is especially beneficial to them in some cases. Rather than having to make arrangements of cover for an employee going away for anywhere up to a year on maternity leave, an employer will have the opportunity to work with the staff member requesting SPL to come to an agreement that works in the favour of both parties.
Who are Eligible for Shared Parental Leave?
Here is where the guidelines of Shared Parental Leave start to become a little complicated.
Before assessment of whether a person is eligible for SPL, they must first prove that they qualify. Mothers or adopters have to be entitled to maternity or adoption leave and name a partner who they will share main responsibility of the child with. If they qualify, to be considered for SPL, eligibility will be decided based on a continuity of employment test. Once this has been passed, the other parent or named partner must then pass the employment and earnings test.
Continuity of Employment Test
By the end of the fifteenth week before the due date or the week in which an adoptive parent is notified of a match for adoption, the person must have worked for the same employer for a minimum of twenty-six weeks. They must still be employed in the first week of SPL that is taken.
Employment and Earnings Test
During the sixty-six weeks leading up to the due date or week in which an adoptive parent is notified of a match for adoption, they must have worked a minimum of twenty-six weeks and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 per week in thirteen of those sixty-six weeks.
How Much Notice Should be Given to Employers?
Employers must be notified at a minimum of eight weeks before a person wishes to take Shared Parental Leave.
Having the discussion about a person’s intention to take SPL with an employer should really take place as soon as possible. This gives both the employer and employees the opportunity to come to an agreement of leave which will work best for all concerned. As parents have the option to take SPL in three blocks, it is beneficial to establish what pattern of leave the employer deems acceptable. By having this conversation early on, the employee can make sure that they are fully aware of their statutory rights and of any other provisions on offer from their employer.
If you require any further information or guidance in relation to Shared Parental Leave or wish to review or download a Shared Parental Leave Form, visit the ACAS website at http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4911.
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