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26 March 2014

Shared parental leave: new regulations published

The Government has published draft regulations setting out details of the new system of shared parental leave introduced under the Children and Families Act 2014, which was granted Royal Assent on 13 March 2014. 

The draft regulations set out the details of the entitlement to shared parental leave and pay, the procedure for requesting and taking leave and rights during leave and on the return to work.

  • The new scheme will apply to parents of children born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015.  The existing system of maternity leave and ordinary paternity leave (two weeks’ leave around the time of birth) will remain in place; the additional paternity leave scheme will be repealed.
  • In order to take shared parental leave, the mother must give a minimum of eight weeks’ notice to curtail her maternity leave (or adoption leave for an adoptive parent) together with a ‘non-binding indication’ of her proposed pattern of leave.  If notification has been given in advance of the birth, it can be withdrawn for up to six weeks afterwards.
  • The period of shared parental leave is 52 weeks, less the period of maternity or adoption leave already taken.  It can only be taken by employees with 26 weeks’ service at the relevant date (end of the 15th week before the expected week of confinement, or the week they are notified of an adoption match).
  • Up to 39 weeks of parental leave can be paid, less the period of statutory maternity or adoption pay received during maternity or adoption leave.
  • Employees may request several discontinuous periods of leave, either taken consecutively or concurrently with the other parent.  Up to three notifications of a request to take parental leave can be made per employee, with a minimum of eight weeks’ notice given in respect of each period of leave.  Employers do not have to accept the requested pattern of leave, and may propose an alternative pattern or require the leave to be taken in one continuous period.
  • Provisions relating to terms and conditions during leave, the right to return to work, rights on redundancy and protection from detrimental/dismissal mirror those that currently apply to maternity, adoption and paternity leave.
  • Employees will be able to take up to 20 ‘keeping in touch’ days each during shared parental leave, in addition to any KIT days taken during maternity or adoption leave.

The draft regulations were published on 5 March 2014 and the Government requested comments on the regulations by 18 March 2014.  This short timescale suggests that the final regulations will be published soon and major revisions are unlikely.

The new system of shared parental leave is likely to prove complicated to administer in practice, although it remains to be seen how popular it will be for employees.  Whilst it only takes effect from 5 April 2015, employees who fall pregnant from summer 2014 onwards are likely to qualify for the new scheme, meaning that employers should start thinking about revisiting their existing maternity, adoption and paternity leave policies.

Copies of the draft regulations are available here.