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Caring is Sharing....

Caring is Sharing....
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Shared Parental Leave and Pay

Significant changes to employment law came into effect this month. There is a new right for staff to take up to 50 weeks’ Shared Parental Leave (“SPL”) resulting in the biggest shake up of family friendly rights in the workplace in decades. Employers will therefore need to be up to date with the changes to ensure that their workforce is informed of the current legislation and how to respond to requests to protect them against complaints being made if SPL entitlements are infringed. 

What is the reason behind the changes being made?
SPL is designed to give employees more flexibility over how they share childcare during the first year of birth or adoption.  The new right replaces the existing right that fathers or partners previously had to take Additional Paternity Leave (“APL”).
Who do the changes apply to?
Crucially, SPL only applies to parents of babies that are born or placed for adoption  on or after 5 April 2015 . However to qualify, both individuals must meet certain eligibility criteria, the most relevant of which being that they must have been employed by the same employer for 26 continuous weeks by the 15th  week before the expected week of childbirth or adoption matching date.
How will SPL work in practice for employers?
An employee can take SPL at any time before the child's first birthday or before the first anniversary of the adoption placement (provided the mother has taken the 2 week period of compulsory maternity leave which all mothers must take immediately after the birth of a child). The same principle applies to adopters.
Whilst fathers/partners may choose to start SPL at any time after the birth of a child, they may decide to exhaust their 2 week period of Paternity Leave and Pay first as they will not be entitled to take this after a period of SPL has taken place.

What are the key differences between SPL and Additional Paternity Leave?

Parents can take SPL at the same time as each other; whereas a father could only take APL once the mother had returned to work.

SPL can be taken in multiple periods; whereas APL had to be taken in one block.
SPL can be taken at any time between the birth and the child's first birthday, with up to 50 weeks available to be shared between the parents (the compulsory maternity leave period is reserved for the mother); whereas APL could not be taken until the 20th week after the child's birth, with a maximum of 26 weeks available.
Are employees entitled to payment during SPL?
Yes. Eligible employees may be entitled to share up to 37 weeks Statutory Shared Parental Pay (“ShPP”), minus the amount of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance already paid to the mother.  The rate of ShPP is set by the Government in April of each year and as of 5 April 2015 it is £139.58 per week.
If an employer pays enhanced maternity pay to its female employees, is there an obligation to pay enhanced ShPP?
There is no statutory obligation to pay enhanced pay during SPL however employers should be aware of the potential risk of sex discrimination claims being brought by male employees on SPL who say they are being treated less favourably than female employees on maternity leave.  A potential defence to this type of claim could be that there is no discrimination if a female employee on SPL also receives the statutory rate and not an enhanced sum.
However it will remain to be seen how any cases such as these are dealt with by the Tribunals and it is possible to assess the level of risk involved.
If you would like further guidance on the recent changes to the law, or if you receive notification from an employee and you are not sure how to respond to it, or if you would like your current handbook or policies to be updated, speak to us at   HRx  on  08701 454436  or email  for expert HR advice and we will be happy to guide you through the process