Following up the publication of the Children and Families Bill, which we reported last month, the Government is consulting, until 17 May 2013, on administration of shared parental leave (SPL). Results of the consultation will be published in "late summer" and SPL is due to be available from 2015. This latest consultation concentrates on the detail and the main issues covered are, in summary:
- eligibility: there will be a two stage test for leave sharers - an "economic activity" test, which both must satisfy: to have worked for 26 out of the 66 weeks prior to the expected week of confinement (EWC) with minimum average earnings for 13 of those weeks. Then leave sharers will individually need to qualify for SPL, with 26 weeks of continuous service by the 15th week before the EWC
- notification by the mother: a woman will be able to give notice (eight weeks) to end her maternity leave at a future date, with the untaken weeks of her overall leave and pay entitlement becoming available for the leave sharers to take as SPL and/or pay. Where the notice is given before birth, the notice will be revocable for a limited period
- notification by leave sharers: at the same time as the mother's notification, each parent/carer will give eight weeks' notice to their own employer to indicate that they plan to opt into the SPL system and how the balance of SPL and pay will be divided between them. Sharers will be able (on notice) to make limited changes to the SPL division and also to notify their leave intentions as they require them; they will not have to set out their plans for the entire entitlement from the start
- agreement of leave patterns: this is for employer and employee, with a two week discussion period and a six week employee sign-off period before the leave starts. If the parties do not agree, the leave must be taken in one block
- right to return: either a right to return to the same job for employees returning from the first continuous block of 26 weeks or less, with right to return to same or similar job for employees returning from subsequent blocks; or a right to return to the same job for return from leave totalling 26 weeks
- KIT days: up to 10 "keeping in touch" days, along the same lines as the current system which will continue to be available to women on maternity leave
- adoption: adoption leave will become a “day-one” right for employed adopters and statutory adoption pay will be enhanced to 90% of salary for the first six weeks for the “primary adopter”, in line with statutory maternity pay. The primary adopter will be entitled to paid time off to attend up to five pre-adoption appointments and the secondary adopter will be entitled to unpaid time off to attend up to two pre-adoption appointments, with a maximum 6.5 hours' time off on each occasion.
- ante-natal appointments: those in a "qualifying relationship" with a pregnant woman or her child will be entitled to time off (with no right to pay) to attend up to two ante-natal appointments (with a maximum 6.5 hours' time off on each occasion). This will also be a "day one" right and there will be no statutory process (or requirement for evidence of pregnancy) for requesting time off.