30 October 2014
Shared parental leave policy changes: helping businesses to be family friendly
This month saw an important change to the shared parental leave policy this is likely to affect businesses up and down the country. Under the new regulations, husbands, civil partners or partners of pregnant women will now have the right to unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments.
This is the first time that partners have been able to assert a statutory right to attend antenatal appointments – something that has previously only been made available to pregnant women themselves. However, it's important for employers to understand the details of this change
So what should businesses be aware of?
Under this policy change, there is no qualifying period for employees to make a request, however, for agency workers it will be 12 weeks. The two visits allows for two appointments at a maximum of 6.5 hours in duration.
Although employees do have to make the request in the prescribed way, employers do have the right to refused if there is a reasonable business case. There is no guidance as to what this might be, therefore businesses should tread carefully.
Should a request be refused without good reason, the employee can present a Tribunal claim. The remedy for this is limited – twice the hourly rate of pay for the duration of the time off that has been requested. However, it does provide protection against any detriment suffered as a result of exercising this right. Any dismissal as a result of trying to exercise this right would be deemed unfair.
Of course, as the right is to take unpaid time off only, some employees may choose to use their annual leave instead. However, the government has made this change to create an environment where partners are involved in their children's upbringing both before and after the birth; therefore it's vital that businesses consider the changes.
Shared Parental Leave and Pay Reforms
The new regulations allow eligible parents of children due to be born or adopted on or after 5 April 2015 to take shared parental leave and pay. The aim is to introduce more flexible, more equal arrangements that will enable mothers to share up to 50 weeks' maternity leave and 37 weeks' pay with their partner.
Under the new regime, an employee taking Shared Parental Leave (SPL) will be able to split their leave into up to three separate blocks instead of taking it all in one go, even if they are not sharing the leave with their partner. If both parents are taking SPL, they can take their leave at the same time as each other or at different times. The employee must give their employer at least eight weeks' notice before a block of leave begins.
An employee will have the right to work up to 20 days during SPL without bringing it to an end. These days are in addition to the ten 'keeping in touch' days already available to those on maternity or adoption leave.
An employer's guide to SPL and Statutory Shared Parental Pay can be found at https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay-employer-guide/overview.
The draft regulations can be found here.
If you would like advice on the changes and how they will impact on your business, contact Hannah King, employment law associate, on 01753 278659 or email firstname.lastname@example.org