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Ask the Experts: Shared Parental Leave
Question: What is shared parental leave and how does it affect me?
This is a new entitlement for eligible parent of babes due, or children placed for adoption on or after 5th April 2015. It will provide both parents the opportunity to consider the best care arrangements for their child during the first year.
Shared Parental Leave enables parents to share the caring responsibilities evenly or take the main caring role – dependent on their preferences.
This legislation means that the mother can only share her leave with one other person; this does not need to be a biological link.
Unlike maternity/adoption leave, eligible employees can stop and start their Shared Parental Leave and return to work between periods of leave with each eligible parent able to submit three notices booking periods of leave.
How will I know if an employee is eligible?
To trigger Shared Parental Leave, for one or both parents, the mother must:-
- Have a partner
- Be entitled to maternity/adoption leave; or statutory maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance
- Have given notice to reduce their maternity/adoption leave; or their pay/allowance
A parent wanting to take Shared Parental Leave is required to satisfy the “continuity of employment” test and their partner must meet the “employment and earnings test”
What is the Continuity of Employment Test?
The individual must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the child’s expected due date/matching date and is still working for the employer at the start of each leave period.
What is the Employment and Earnings Test?
In the 66 weeks leading up to the baby’s expected due date/matching date, the person has worked at least 26 weeks and earned an average of at least £30 a week in any 13 weeks.
How does Shared Parental Pay work?
A mother, subject to certain criteria, will be entitled to statutory maternity pay/adoption pay/maternity allowance for up to 39 weeks. If the mother gives notice to reduce their entitlement before they have received it for 39 weeks then any remaining weeks could become available for Shared Parental Pay.
If both parents qualify for Shared Parental Pay they must decide who will receive it or how it will be divided, and must each inform their employer of their entitlement.
As an employer, how do I check an employee’s eligibility?
It is an employee’s responsibility to check that they are eligible for Shared Parental Leave and Shared Parental Pay and, as an employer, should grant leave and pay based on the information and declarations provided by the employee.
Apart from checking that your own employee meets the continuity of employment and earnings criteria, a notice of entitlement to take Shared Parental Leave or Shared Parental Pay and the accompanying declarations will be sufficient evidence of a right to claim.
As an employer it is essential they any actions are consistent and their policies and approach to conducting fair investigations consider their data protection obligations, duty of confidentiality and ensure that they do not act in a way that could be construed as discriminatory.
This piece of employment legislation is very complex and advice should be sought to ensure that eligibility requirements are met.