By April 9, 2015 Read More →

Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave - Kay Heald, HR ConsultantShared Parental Leave is the latest in a line of ‘family friendly’ legislation to go live.

But how popular is it actually going to be with parents and legislation-weary employers?

Home-based HR consultant Kay Heald explains the rules and their possible impact:

Shared Parental Leave – what is it?
Well, Shared Parental Leave is a different and optional way of sharing childcare in the first year following birth or adoption.

Parents can share a ‘pot’ of leave (50 weeks) and a ‘pot’ of pay (37 weeks) and decide to be either off work at the same time, or take it in turns to have periods of leave to look after the child.

What’s different about it?
Unlike the existing system of maternity and adoption leave, Shared Parental Leave can be taken either as a continuous period or at different times throughout the year in multiples of complete weeks. It’s this aspect that is likely to create an additional administrative and organisational burden on businesses.

What’s particularly interesting with this new legislation is that even when only one parent actually meets the eligibility criteria regarding their employment and length of time worked, it can still be possible for the other to pass the employment and earnings test.

For example, where a father is an employee, but a mother is self-employed, although the mother has no maternity leave or Shared Parental Leave entitlement herself, if she curtails her entitlement to maternity allowance, she can give the father access to the Shared Parental Leave scheme.

So, how popular is it likely to be?

I think the take-up, particularly in smaller businesses, is going to be a lot lower than the government predicts for two main reasons:

In this country there are still some rather deepseated and somewhat ‘Victorian’ notions regarding the role men play in early childcare and it will take more than a new piece of legislation to shift such perceptions.

For example, the take-up for Additional Paternity Leave introduced in 2010 (which allowed fathers to take an additional 26 weeks leave in the baby’s first year, if the mother returned to work early), was notoriously low and according to the TUC was accessed by only 0.6% of eligible fathers.

I think some parents will be nervous about asserting their statutory rights regarding Shared Parental Leave, fearing that it will adversely affect their relationship with their employers, who are likely to see it as both complicated and awkward to arrange and manage.

Other problems?
It is the employee’s responsibility to check their eligibility for Shared Parental Leave. The employer is not required to check or confirm information given by the partner to determine whether their own employee is eligible, which creates a system that is sadly open to abuse.

It is unclear how Shared Parental Leave and Pay will work alongside enhanced company maternity pay arrangements. Surely, employers will be under pressure to provide fathers with similar access to enhanced arrangements as mothers to try and avoid sex discrimination claims, but will they be able to afford such additional and unbudgeted extra costs?

As with all new UK legislation, time will tell whether Shared Parental Leave lives up to its hype as the brightest new family friendly option or becomes just another hurdle in an already complicated arena of family leave rights.

work from home secrets

Kay is an independent HR Consultant specialising in helping small and family businesses based in and around Shropshire with their personnel and employment needs. She’s been a home-based worker for nearly 10 years.

Posted in: Family

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