2015 could see fathers in the UK taking as much as 50 weeks’ parentalleave. It could also radically change the career paths of mothers and return these skilled resources to the economy more quickly. But how will it work in practice? The “additional paternity leave” regime is effective for children due on or after 3 April 2011. Here, if a mother returns to work before the end of her 52-week statutory maternity leave period, the father/her partner is entitled to use the remaining unused portion of her maternity leave. If the mother has returned to work before the end of the 39-week paid statutory maternity leave period, the father/mother’s partner is also entitled to the remaining portion of unclaimed statutory maternity pay.
The two main conditions attached to the existing additional paternity leave regime are that: (1) the father/mother’s partner is only entitled to additional paternity leave if the mother has returned to work; and (2) the period of additional paternity leave cannot begin any earlier than 20 weeks from the date of the child’s birth or placement for adoption.
Proposed New Regime
The proposed shared parental leave regime will maintain the two-week compulsory maternity leave period for the mother immediately following the child’s birth or placement for adoption
After initial 2 week period: both parents will be entitled to share the remaining 50 weeks’ parental leave in any way they choose. This means both parents can take their joint parental leave entitlement either concurrently or consecutively, by alternating in periods of no less than one week at a time. The total number of weeks taken by both parents in aggregate must not exceed 52 (including the mother’s compulsory two weeks). This new regime will therefore permit mothers to return to work immediately after the initial compulsory two-week period, allowing the father/mother’s partner to take the whole of the remaining 50 weeks.
Payment - only the first 39 weeks of parental leave will be paid. The existing minimum two weeks’ statutory paid paternity leave system will continue to operate as before. The current additional paternity leave regime will be abolished.
How will this affect your business?
Firstly, employees will not be required to provide their employers with full details of their plans regarding the whole parental leave period from the outset.
8 Weeks Notice: They will be required to give employers 8 week’s notice of their intention to end the maternity leave and commence the shared parental leave, and the separate employers of both parents must then agree with their respective employees to the pattern of parental leave.
No Limit - there is no limit to the number of times parents can alternate between weeks of parental leave and work, which can result in their employers receiving notice of multiple proposed periods of leave in an ad hoc and piecemeal fashion.
The Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) envisages that the new system will require a “light touch” administrative approach but employers have expressed disquiet about the anticipated managerial burden of implementing the new policy. For example, although BIS has stated it does not expect that each parent’s respective employer will need to contact the other in order to verify their employees’ leave entitlements, it is difficult to see how this can otherwise be achieved without risking errors or even employee fraud.
The increased flexibility for parents also means that employers may find themselves obliged to hire short-term replacements for these employees or share the burden of additional work amongst other employees.
Brightpay.co.uk will issue updates on any changes in relation to this new law.