Under the Children and Families Bill, from 2015, qualifying parents will be able to share 50 weeks' of parental leave (previously only available as maternity leave), and associated pay.

One key aspect which has already been confirmed under the new proposals relates to the patterns of parental leave. The leave must be taken in blocks of at least a week and, if patterns cannot be agreed with employers, the default position will be a 'single block' of leave per parent. Therefore, employers cannot be forced to agree a pattern whereby a parent's leave is broken up into multiple leave periods.

In addition, the Government has recently launched a consultation on how shared parental leave and pay should work in practice, by posing questions on some of the more technical aspects of the proposals:

  • Agreeing patterns of leave
    • what time period should be allocated for negotiating and agreeing patterns of leave;
  • Flexibility
    • should notification of parental leave arrangements be fixed once requested, or should there be scope to vary the leave;
    • if so, how much notice should be given of any change (and how would notification periods work in 'fostering to adopt' situations);
  • Information required
    • should any information be requested from employees over and above their basic details and the leave and pay levels available to them - for example, should evidence of eligibility, or details of the other party's employer, be made available so that checks can be carried out by employers;
  • Time Limits
    • what should be the cut-off point for using shared parental leave or pay entitlements (i.e. 52 weeks from the start of maternity leave or from the birth of the child);
  • Keeping in Touch days
    • how would the allocation of KIT days required per parent be interpreted under the proposed arrangements; and
  • Right to return to the same job
    • how should this principle be applied in relation to shared parental leave and pay.

Impact on Employers

As set out above, it has already been confirmed under the proposals that, if patterns cannot be agreed with employers, the default position will be a 'single block' of leave per parent. This will be welcomed by employers, who will not be forced to agree to multiple periods of leave. However, if the default position applies, the start date of any single period of leave will be specified by the employee.

It is anticipated that the responses to the consultation will be used to further flesh out the regulations on shared parental leave and pay. Therefore, if employers have specific views on how the proposals would work best in practice, or if they have any other input in relation to the consultation, they may wish to participate:https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-administration-of-shared-parental-leave-and-pay

The consultation is open for contributions until 17 May 2013, with the outcome expected at the end of the Summer.