In November 2012, the Government announced that it intended to introduce a new system of shared parental leave, overhauling the existing maternity leave and paternity leave provisions.

Under the proposals, eligible employees would continue to be entitled to a maximum of 52 weeks’ leave and 39 weeks’ statutory pay. However, all bar the first 2 weeks of the leave and pay (the compulsory period of maternity leave, which the mother must take) will be available for sharing if the mother wishes to do so. For example, the mother could return to work and give the remaining leave and statutory pay to the father. Alternatively, the couple could decide to take leave and receive statutory pay at the same time or the couple could take their leave in turns, as long as the total time taken and the total statutory pay received does not exceed 50 weeks and 37 weeks statutory pay respectively. Shared leave could be taken in a single period or several blocks.

The default position will however be that an eligible mother will still enjoy 52 weeks leave and 39 weeks pay (the current maternity leave entitlements) unless she opts to share. That is, a father cannot demand for the leave to be shared. If the leave is not to be shared, the father’s leave entitlement would be limited to 2 weeks statutory paternity leave only.

After publishing the proposals and seeking views on exactly how the scheme would operate, the Government has recently confirmed that:

  • a mother will need to provide her employer with at least 8 weeks notice of her intention to end her maternity leave and pay and begin shared parental leave and claim shared parental pay.
  • the mother will be entitled to provide the notice before the child’s birth, which would enable the shared parental leave to begin immediately after the compulsory 2 week maternity leave.
  • where notice is provided before the child’s birth, the mother will still be entitled to change her mind up to 6 weeks after the birth.
  • both parents will need to provide their respective employers with 8 weeks notice (inclusive of a 2 week discussion period) if they wish to take several blocks of leave and they must give their employers 8 weeks notice in respect of each block.
  • employees will be required to provide a non-binding indication of their expected leave period(s) when they notify their employer of their intention to take shared parental leave.
  • employees will be limited to making up to 3 notifications for leave or changes to periods of leave, in an effort to provide more certainty for employers.
  • the right to return to the same job will be maintained for returning employees where the leave totals 26 weeks or less.

The Government intends to implement the scheme by 2015 and we will provide further detail nearer the time.

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