1. It comes into effect with regard to parents of babies who are due on or after 5 April 2015. NB it is the due date that is relevant, not the actual date of birth.     
  2. It is complicated. The regulations provide for the employee to give several notices; an initial notice to opt in to Shared Parental Leave, including a non-binding indication of when they want to take leave, then a further notice to actually book the leave. The employee is also allowed to change their mind about the dates they are requesting and submit up to two further notices with amendments. It is a minefield for both HR managers and employees to navigate. See our detailed note for more information and contact a member of our employment team if you need someone to guide you through the process.   
  3. Unlike Maternity Leave and the old Additional Paternity Leave, Shared Parental Leave does not need to be taken in one block. It can be taken in several discontinuous periods and the employee can come back to work in between. This is designed to give more flexibility for parents, but it is potentially a headache for employers arranging cover. However, the compromise is that while employers must agree to a request for Shared Parental Leave in one block, if the employee asks to take their leave in discontinuous periods, the employer can suggest alternative dates or refuse the request. 
  4. You will need to update your family policies and introduce a new Shared Parental Leave policy. The Shared Parental Leave regime replaces fathers’ entitlement to Additional Paternity Leave, so that should be removed from your employment handbook. Ordinary Paternity Leave (the initial two weeks) remains, as does Parental Leave (the right to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave up to a child’s 18th birthday). Your Maternity Leave and Adoption Leave policies will also need some updating to reflect how they interact with Shared Parental Leave. 
  5. If your business offers enhanced Maternity Pay, you should give some thought to whether you also want to offer enhanced Shared Parental Pay. Employers will consider how this decision will affect their public image, employee relations and their credentials as a family-friendly employer. There is also the possibility of fathers bringing sex discrimination claims if mothers receive enhanced pay for their time off for child care, but fathers do not. The best guidance we have on this point is a similar case in relation to Additional Paternity Leave. The claim of sex discrimination in the Shuter v Ford case failed, and paying enhanced pay to women on Maternity Leave but not to men on Additional Paternity Leave was held to be legitimate. But in this case, the company in question (the car manufacturer) could point to strong statistical data showing that it had an unbalanced workforce where women were underrepresented, and it had excellent documentary evidence showing that it had an established policy to aim to try to encourage the recruitment and retention of female employees. It is possible that a similar case on Shared Parental Leave might go the other way.