As of 5th April 2015 new rights came into play for new parents.
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is now a viable option for many families, meaning both mother and father can take an equal share in the early care of their child.
Up to 50 weeks of leave (37 paid) can be shared by parents if they meet certain criteria. Pay is £139.58 a week or 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
Previously it has been the mother who stays at home with a new child, usually because of favourable maternity leave benefits. The father has two weeks paternity leave immediately after the birth or arrival of an adopted child, and then returns to work.
The new rulings allow parents to split their leave up, should they wish. Both parents need to be eligible for SPL, and the mother needs to stop receiving her Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) to allow the father to “take over”. How the leave is divided up is down to the individual family. Parents may share the leave 50/50, or one parent might take a higher proportion of the leave. As long as the mother isn’t claiming SMP, the father is entitled to statutory pay.
What’s interesting is that if eligible, blocks of leave can be can taken, with periods of work in between rather than taking it all in one go.
The move is certain to benefit many families, particularly where the mother is the main earner. From a work/life balance and well-being point of view it is believed many men will experience a greater bond with their new child by adopting the role of sole carer. However, experts believe it may take some time to truly take effect.
Although employers cannot refuse SPL where an employee is entitled to it, many men may feel taking a large period of leave could be detrimental to their career. Social stigma may also play a part in the decision to take SPL.
SPL is commonplace in Scandinavian countries, Germany, parts of Canada and more recently Australia. Uptake is popular in these countries with many men seeing the benefits of being at home with their child. It remains to be seen how many families will take advantage of the new laws in the UK.
If you’re an employer and would like to know more about the new Shared Parental Leave entitlements, please contact our Employment Law department. If you are a parent-to-be and are considering SPL, full details, eligibility criteria and a pay calculator can be found on the Government website.
Please call 0161 624 6811 or use our online contact form.
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