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16th December 2013

Government Outlines Shared Parental Leave Proposals

The government has published its response to the consultation seeking views on how to administer the shared parental leave scheme, which is due to be introduced in 2015.

In providing its response to the consultation process, the government has confirmed the following:

  • A woman will need to give her employer at least eight weeks’ notice of her intention to end maternity leave and pay and begin shared parental leave (SPL) and claim shared parental pay (SPP).
  • The woman will be entitled to give the notice before the child’s birth. This will enable her and her partner to begin SPL and claim SPP immediately after the compulsory two-week maternity leave period.
  • Both parents will need to give their respective employers eight weeks’ notice to begin SPL and if they wish to take several blocks of leave, they must give their employers eight weeks’ notice in respect of each period of leave. The eight weeks will include a two week discussion period between the employer and employee.
  • Employees will be required to provide a non-binding indication of their expected pattern of leave when they notify their employer of their intention to take SPL.
  • A notice to end maternity leave and pay, accompanied by a notice to take SPL and SPP, will be binding unless:

–       One of the parents discovers during the eight-week notice period that they are not eligible for SPL or SPP because they do not satisfy the relevant eligibility test. The mother will then be able to revoke the notice to end maternity leave and pay and the notice to opt into the SPL system will be void, or

–       The woman gave notice before the child’s birth. The government recognises that the birth of a child has a significant impact and that it would be unreasonable and impractical to hold a mother to a pre-birth commitment. A mother will therefore be entitled to change her mind up to six weeks after the birth.

It was originally proposed by the government that an employee would be able to make an unlimited number of requests to take periods of leave, or change a previous request under the scheme. However, having considered the responses received during the consultation process, the government has decided that each employee should be limited to make up to three notifications for leave or changes to periods of leave, although further requests may be made upon agreement between the parties.

In addition to the above, and after considering responses to the consultation, the government has decided that the cut-off point for taking SPL will be 52 weeks from the birth of the child, rather than from the start of the mother’s maternity leave.

It has also been announced that each parent taking SPL will be allowed to have up to 20 ‘keeping in touch’-style days.  It is believed that this will be in addition to the mother’s existing 10 ‘keeping in touch’ day entitlement during maternity leave.

The government has also announced that an employee returning from SPL should have the right to return to the same job no matter how many periods of shared parental leave they have taken, as long as they have taken 26 or fewer weeks’ leave in total.

The government’s proposals for SPL and SPP are set to be introduced by the Children and Families Bill 2012-13 which has already completed its passage through the House of Commons and is due to be formally implemented at some stage in 2015.

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