Businesses urged to ready themselves for new era of shared parental leave

Businesses urged to ready themselves for new era of shared parental leave

BUSINESSES ARE BEING URGED TO PREPARE FOR THE LATEST STAGE OF FAMILY-FRIENDLY LEAVE FOR PARENTS OF NEWBORN BABIES THAT TOOK EFFECT IN APRIL.

“An increasing number of applications for Shared Parental Leave (SPL) can be expected by businesses after new rules, which may also require more management time and paperwork, came fully into force,” said Marie Horner, Head of Employment Law at North and East Yorkshire law firm, Harrowells.

Fathers wanting to take more than two weeks’ statutory paternity leave can apply to their employers to share, with their partner, up to 50 weeks’ leave and 37 weeks’ statutory pay, either together, or separately, in up to three blocks of time each. Each parent must give their employer eight weeks’ notice of proposed leave.

Marie added: “SPL is to be welcomed as a more enlightened, family-friendly approach to allowing parents to share leave to care for newborn babies but, to minimise what could initially appear quite complicated, businesses should get strategies in place now, before a member of staff applies for SPL.

“Until a member of staff applies for SPL, employers will not know how long a potentially crucial person may be on leave for. The flexibility of SPL could mean that some parents will make relatively last-minute decisions on how they choose to allocate the leave and businesses need to consider how this will affect them operationally.

“In families where the mother earns the most, it is likely that parents will decide that she should return to work while the father looks after the baby, or they may wish to share the 50 weeks equally to avoid missing out on this precious time together as a family.”

Marie added that, although there is no legal obligation, the employers of parents applying for SPL – in the most likely event that they work for separate companies – should liaise to arrange the total leave jointly to ensure that the statutory 50 weeks’ leave is not exceeded.

She said: “There is a risk that this policy may be accidentally, or deliberately, used by parents to take more time off than SPL allows, or some may deliberately use the leave for other purposes. This means that businesses that may have several members of staff making requests in the same period need to have strategies in place so they are ready for every eventuality which SPL presents.

“SPL also offers 20 Shared Parental Leave In Touch days (SPLIT) so parents can do some work during their leave. This may be a valuable option for businesses with experienced staff whose expertise can still be drawn upon during their absence and businesses should familiarise themselves with this before they discuss SPL applications.”

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