Creating a shared parental leave policy
Shared parental leave has been introduced to give families more flexibility about how leave is taken following a child’s birth or adoption. Shared parental leave can be taken by any eligible employee, including fathers, partners, co-adopters etc.
All employers should have a policy on shared parental leave and all employees should have access to it. Line managers need to understand the procedure and employees need to know what they are entitled to.
You should also be aware that for an eligible employee whose child is due or matched for adoption on or after 5 April 2015 their right to additional paternity leave will be replaced by a right to take shared parental leave. You should update any paternity policies to reflect this change
Employees wishing to take shared parental leave must fulfil three notification requirements to be able to take shared parental leave:
- Mothers (or primary adopters) must bring their maternity (or adoption) leave to an end by serving a leave curtailment notice
- The parent wishing to take leave must serve a notice of entitlement and intention to take leave
- The parent wishing to take leave must serve a period of leave notice.
Remember that the notifications do not need to given at the same time as each other but all three notices must be served at least eight weeks before the first period of leave to be eligible for consideration.
Although the system is intended to be one of self-certification, if you wish to do so you are entitled to write to the employee asking for a copy of the child’s birth certificate (or evidence from the adoption agency that matched the child about the date of matching and date of placement) and the name and address of the other parent’s employer within 14 days of receiving the notice of entitlement and intention to take shared parental leave. The employee then has 14 days to respond, unless the request is made before the child is born in which case special rules apply.
Responding to requests
Once you have received all three of the required notices (leave curtailment, notice of entitlement and intention, period of leave notice) from an employee wishing to take shared parental leave you need to acknowledge the request.
You should then confirm that the employee is eligible to take shared parental leave
If the employee is eligible to take shared parental leave your response will depend on whether the employee has requested a single, continuous block of leave or whether they have requested multiple, discontinuous blocks of leave.
Single, continuous blocks of leave
If the employee has requested a single, continuous block of leave you must accept the request. You should write to the employee confirming your acceptance of their request and confirming the dates for the period of leave.
Multiple, discontinuous blocks of leave
If the employee has requested multiple, discontinuous blocks of leave you have two weeks in which to make a decision. In considering whether to accept the request you should think about the impact that the requested leave will have on the business and whether any modifications to the proposed leave will reduce this impact. It may be helpful to have a meeting with the employee to discuss their request in more detail.
If you decide that you can accept the request you should write to the employee confirming that you have agreed to the periods of leave requested and confirming the dates of the periods of leave.
If you find that the employee’s request will have a detrimental impact on the business then you can propose alternative dates for the periods of leave. You should meet with the employee to discuss the proposed alternative and write to them outlining the proposal and giving reasons why these dates are better suited to the needs of the business.
If a pattern of periods of leave cannot be agreed you should write to the employee explaining that their request has been declined and outlining the options now available to them. At this stage the employee can either withdraw their request or take the total amount of leave requested as a single continuous period.
Responding to variation or cancellation requests
Once a period of leave has been confirmed employees still have the right to change a period of leave by serving a variation notice. Employees are entitled to submit up to three period of leave notices in total (note that if a notice is withdrawn because a pattern of leave cannot be agreed this notice does not count as one of the employee’s three submissions). The notices must be submitted at least eight weeks before the beginning of the requested variation to be eligible for consideration.
Confirming arrangements and rights
Prior to an employee starting shared parental leave shared parental leave it is advisable to you meet with him/her to confirm the arrangements for the leave. This is useful to ensure that there is clarity over issues such as the return date, and also to give the employee the opportunity to ask any questions.
The employment contract continues as normal during shared parental leave, with the exception of terms and conditions relating to remuneration, such as wages or salary. The rights that apply during a period of shared parental leave are the same as those that apply while a woman is on maternity leave.
Employees who are paid average earnings at or above the lower earnings limit and who have complied with the relevant notification requirements will be eligible for statutory shared parental pay, paid at the lower rate of SMP, in accordance with how the parents have decided to split their statutory shared parental pay entitlement between them. Employees cannot receive more than 39 weeks of SMP and statutory shared parental pay in total.
If you wish you can choose to make a discretionary payment during shared parental pay on an enhanced basis, or allow for payment as part of the employee’s contract. Make sure that you consider how this enhanced pay interacts with existing enhanced maternity pay policies.
Contractual holiday continues to accrue during shared parental leave, as does statutory leave entitlement.
Keeping in contact
You are entitled to make ‘reasonable contact’ with an employee who is on shared parental leave without bringing the leave to an end and this can help the employee to continue to feel part of the working team. The contact could involve sending him/her company newsletters or other company information and inviting him/her to attend relevant company or social events, but it is important that the employee does not feel under any pressure to attend such events.
During a period of shared parental leave each parent is entitled to take up to 20 ‘keeping in touch’ days of work (with the employer’s agreement) without bringing their leave to an end. These days can be known as shared parental leave ‘in touch’ days (SPLIT days). Employees are entitled to these days in addition to the 10 KIT days that can be worked during a period of maternity or adoption leave.
Return to work
Which role an employee takes up following his or her return to work will depend on how much statutory leave, including shared parental leave, has been taken in total.
If the employee is returning from a period of leave of 26 weeks or less then they have the right to return to the job in which they were employed before their absence. If the employee is returning after more than 26 weeks’ leave they have the right to return to the same job unless this is not reasonably practicable, in which case they will be entitled to return to a suitable alternative role.
For more information and guidance, contact our team of HR Consultants at aspire cambridge today on 01223 855441.