From 5 April 2015 a new right to shared parental leave will be introduced allowing mothers/adopters to share their 52 weeks’ leave with a father/partner. Although, the first 2 weeks after the baby is born will remain compulsory maternity leave which the mother must take, so it is effectively 50 weeks that can be shared.
The current rights to maternity, paternity and adoption leave will remain the default position, however, parents/adopters will be able to choose to opt into this new scheme. From my observation of the shared parental leave scheme, the Government have proposed very detailed notice and evidential requirements which the mother and father/partner must comply with, before they may take shared parental leave. Currently, the parents must take shared parental leave simultaneously or alternately, provided that neither parent takes leave in more than 3 separate blocks. However, payment for shared parental leave will be the same as statutory maternity/paternity pay.
The proposed requirements mean that both employees and employers will need to be alert to the process and procedures that need to be followed. As an employer, you will want to be up to date with the new rules to avoid any pregnancy/maternity/sex discrimination claims and as an employee, you will need to know your rights to be able to exercise them appropriately.
The right to ‘shared parental leave’ is still subject to modification, but given the proposals to date, it is going to be a steep learning curve for both employers and employees.