Working parents to share parental leave

A new law on parental leave will give eligible parents, partners and adopters more flexibility in how they take time off work after the birth or adoption of their child.

Asian Family Outdoor Quality Time EnjoymentThe new regulations, which are set to come into force from 1 December 2014, will allow the mother or adopter to share some of her maternity leave and maternity pay with her partner.

Parents and partners must have a baby due to be born or adopted on or after 5 April 2015, in order to benefit from the new regulations. This means that employers can expect to receive notice of eligibility and the intention to take Shared Parental Leave from as early as January 2015.

The current rights available to employed parents and adopters will remain in force, entitling mothers to 52 weeks maternity leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance, and fathers/partners entitled to take two weeks of paid paternity leave. The new regulations upgrade this by allowing eligible mothers to end their maternity leave early and opt in with her partner for Shared Parental Leave instead. They can decide how to divide their total leave and pay between them. These rights also apply to adopters and intended parents in surrogacy.

To be eligible the parent must have worked continuously for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due. In the case of adoption, the week the adopter is matched with a child. The parent or adopter must still be employed in the first week in which they are to take Shared Parental Leave. The partner is eligible if during the 66 weeks before the baby is due, they have been working for at least 26 weeks and on average earned at least £30 a week in 13 of the 66 weeks.

The mother must be entitled to maternity or adoption leave and/or statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance. She must also share the main responsibility of caring for her child with the child's father or her partner. It is up to the mother to opt in for Shared Parental Leave instead of maternity leave. Shared Parental Leave can be taken in a continuous period, which the employer cannot refuse, or in a discontinuous period, which the employer can refuse.

Furthermore, fathers and partners can also take unpaid time off to attend up to two ante-natal appointments.

Employers will need to update their policies and inform current employees of the proposed changes coming into effect to avoid potential problems in the future. Shared Parental Leave may not be the best fit for everyone and some parents and partners may decide it is not for them, but the new regulations definitely hope to add more flexibility and support to parents and partners who care for their child together.

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