Government calls for employer responses to new regime
The government has published its draft regulations for shared parental leave and pay, with finalised rules scheduled to come into force on the 1st of October 2014. However, law experts are already warning that the proposed rules “look terribly complicated for both employers and employees”. The draft regulations outline new entitlements for mums and dads, or their partners, to receive 'statutory shared parental pay' from their employers.
The proposals detail the conditions that parents must meet to qualify for these payments. They also allow flexibility for parents to change their requirements after their initial claim.This secondary legislation is part of a radical government overhaul of the existing maternity and paternity regime and it will support the primary legislation known as the Children and Families Act once it receives Royal Assent. The rules will allow both parents to share up to 50 weeks' leave, which can be taken at the same time, or separately. Mums will be able to cut short maternity leave and, provided they give at least eight weeks' notice, can make up to three requests to share their maternity leave with their partner after having their child. But if an employer does not agree to discontinuous periods of leave the employee will have to take the leave continuously. Policy makers at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (Bis) have urged employers, and other stakeholders, to respond to the draft rules, saying they want to make the new system of shared parental leave and pay “as simple to use as possible”.Bis has indicated it intends the changes to take effect for babies born on or after 5 April 2015.
But in response to the publication of the draft, Pattie Walsh, London head of employment at DLA Piper, said: "The much trailed overhaul of the UK's existing maternity and paternity regime has now had some flesh put on the bones with the publication of a series of draft regulations. "The government's aim to allow parents to share a period of parental leave is a laudable one. However, at first blush at least, the regulations which will implement the system look terribly complicated - for both employers and employees. They are due to come into force in October 2014, leaving employers with a relatively short time to prepare new policies and procedures, and will apply to employees expecting a baby on or after 5 April 2015.And she added: "Surprisingly, it appears that only employees with 26 weeks' service will qualify for the right to take shared parental leave in any event."