In a significant move away from the tradition of birth-related leave being the preserve of a woman, from 1 December 2014, the UK’s new shared parental leave regime will, for the first time, allow parents to share up to 50 weeks’ leave. The new regulations apply to parents expecting a baby on or after 5 April 2015 as well as to adoptions and to employees who become parents through a surrogacy arrangement.

Sandra Wallace, the UK Employment Group Head, comments, ”Today marks an exciting milestone in the development of family friendly employment rights in the UK. That excitement is, however, slightly tainted by the fact that the legislation enacting the new regime is extremely complex;   at the most recent count there were 22 sets of implementing regulations. The regime places onerous notification and other burdens on both employers and employees so, at first blush, the task of understanding and implementing shared parental leave may not seem straight forward. That said, if employers put  time into addressing the new requirements now and take some sensible preparatory steps, the new scheme is likely to run smoothly within their organisation. No-one is expecting an immediate rush of requests and it is anticipated that employee use of the new rights will gradually increase over the coming years. Our recommendation is that, as a starting point,  UK businesses should prepare by putting relevant policies in place (for example, a revised maternity policy and a shared parental leave and pay policy); by producing notification forms for their employees to use; and by producing guidance for managers on handling requests for shared parental leave.