Regulations implementing the new system of shared parental leave (SPL) are intended to come into force on 1 December 2014 and will apply to babies born or adopted on or after 5 April 2015. Parents will be entitled to take SPL in the first year of their child’s life or in the first year after a child’s placement for adoption with them.
In summary, key points relating to the new system are:
- Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance.
- If they choose to do so, an eligible mother may end her maternity leave early and, with her partner or the child's father, opt for SPL instead of maternity leave. If they both meet the qualifying requirements, they will need to decide how they want to divide their SPL and pay entitlement.
- Adopters will have the same rights as other parents to Shared Parental leave and pay.
SPL may be shared between both parents concurrently or consecutively.Subject to an employer’s agreement, the leave may be taken in more than one block by either or both parents so that they return to work for a period of time and then resume the leave at a later date.
The notice requirements are complex and need to be understood by schools as do the circumstances in which they are required to agree to a request and the circumstances in which they may object. In brief:
- A mother must give 8 weeks’ notice of her intention to end her maternity leave and to opt for SPL instead. If such notice is given prior to the baby’s birth, she will have 6 weeks after the birth to revoke the notice.
- The notice must include confirmation of eligibility and a non binding outline of the proposed pattern of SPL including timescales.
- A notice requesting one continuous period of SPL must be accepted by the school. However, if the notice requests several discontinuous periods of SPL, the school will have 2 weeks to discuss the proposal, accept it, propose an alternative pattern or to refuse it.
- An employee may serve up to 3 notices.
Following the introduction of SPL the current system of additional paternity leave will be
abolished although ordinary paternity leave will still be in place.
Employees on SPL will benefit from their normal terms and conditions, apart from remuneration. Reasonable contact between school and employee may be maintained during SPL. Each parent may work for up to 20 days during SPL without affecting the SPL. These working days will be known as shared parental leave in touch days (SPLIT days). A mother’s entitlement to work on 10 keeping in touch days during any period of maternity leave is separate from the SPLIT days.
Schools will need to review their current arrangements relating to maternity leave and parental leave and be prepared for the new system.In boarding schools in particular, where it is not unusual to have husband and wife teams, the new system could pose some interesting challenges.