When the Shared Parental Leave & Pay Regulations 2014 were rolled out last year the sound of heads being scratched could be heard across many companies as the practicalities of these regulations were digested.
In a nutshell, Shared Parental Leave (SPL) allows fathers or partners to share the time previously designated only to mothers to help look after their new born baby or recently adopted child. A more detailed explanation can be found in our post on Shared Parental Leave.
Now over a year on, we wanted to remind you of your SPL obligations and also highlights risk areas that have come out of a recent tribunal decision.
Your Shared Parental Leave Obligations
- You should have a clear Shared Parental Leave Policy in place that is linked to your Maternity, Adoption and Paternity policies.
- Allow eligible employees the right to share a period of 52 weeks as Shared Parental Leave (SPL) with their partner.
- Allow eligible employees to take SPL in up to 3 separate blocks (in complete weeks). You must allow them to take the leave in one continuous period if this is requested, but if they request blocks in a discontinuous period you could reasonably refuse the request but you must allow the time to be taken at another point.
- Pay eligible employees up to 39 weeks of SPL at the current Statutory Parental Pay rate or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).
Shared Parental Leave Pitfalls
As with all new legislation, it takes a while for us to see it put to the test in court. One of the first cases concerning Shared Parental Leave was recently concluded. In the case of Snell v Network Rail, it was found that employers who offer enhanced maternity pay to mothers taking maternity leave but only Statutory Parental Pay to fathers or partners taking Shared Parental Leave may be at risk of committing indirect discrimination. In this particular case the claimant was awarded over £28,000.
Although this is the first of its kind, this brings to light a need to consider the rates of pay you offer mothers for maternity are harmonised with the rates you other fathers during Shared Parental Leave and Paternity Leave to avoid opening yourselves up to the risk of discrimination claims.
What’s different about SPL from maternity and paternity is that in most cases your employee is sharing the time off with someone who doesn’t work for you, so you need to have your paperwork in order to avoid giving more leave and pay than should be allowed. When authorising SPL, make sure your employee has given you the correct notice together with a declaration that their partner meets the employment and income requirements which allows your employee to get SPL.
Other Family Friendly Responsibilities
Here’s a snapshot of other recent and upcoming changes in family-friendly employment law:
- Time off for fathers for ante-natal appointments: Fathers and partners are now entitled to unpaid time off to attend two ante-natal appointments (capped at six and a half hours for each appointment). Adopters are also allowed time off for adoption appointments.
- Right to request flexible working: In 2014 this right was extended to any employee who has 26 weeks’ continuous service and not made a previous request within the last year. Although you don’t always have to agree to the request you should fairly consider any request and have a justifiable reason if you choose to decline it.
- Shared Parental Leave for Grandparents: The Government is proposing extending shared parental leave to grandparents in 2018. The system of shared grand-parental leave would allow a mother to share her leave with one nominated working grandparent.
Family friendly policies, as with all key policies, are worth reviewing every year to ensure they still fall in line with current legislation and custom and practice within your organisation. We offer a complimentary Employee Handbook health check and if you’d like us to take a look at your handbook then use our contact form to email us or give us a call on 0203 319 1649.