Earlier in the year the Government issued a consultation paper on the administration of shared parental leave and pay. The Government response to consultation was issued last week. The key points employers should be aware of from the response include:
- Employees will have to give eight weeks' notice of their intention to opt-in to the shared parental leave system and of any subsequent request for leave.
- In order to opt-in to the shared parental leave system a woman has to give notice of her intention to bring her maternity leave to an end early. This allows the outstanding maternity leave period to be converted into shared parental leave, which can be taken by either parent. Although this notice can be given before the birth, a woman will have six weeks following the birth to revoke the notice.
- When a couple initially opt-in to the shared parental leave system, they will have to give a non-binding indication of how they are intending to take their shared parental leave. This is intended to give employers more certainty about the pattern of shared parental leave that is likely to be taken.
- The number of notifications of shared parental leave (or changes to shared parental leave) that employees will be able to give will be limited to three, unless the employer is willing to allow more requests. Again, this is designed to give employers a greater degree of certainty about how and when leave will be taken.
- Shared parental leave will have to be taken within 52 weeks of a child's birth, reflecting the position under the right to additional paternity leave.
- 20 Keeping in Touch (KIT) days will be available to each parent during shared parental leave. This will be in addition to the KIT days a woman can take during maternity leave. KIT days during shared parental leave will be given a new name, to avoid confusion with maternity KIT days.
- The right to return to the same job will apply to employees returning from any period of leave that includes maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave that totals 26 weeks or less in aggregate, even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks.
The legislative framework for shared parental leave is contained in the Children and Families Bill, which is currently going through Parliament. It is intended that draft secondary legislation (which will provide the detail of how shared parental leave will work in practice) will be published before the Bill receives Royal Assent. The new right is expected to come into force in 2015.