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What are the new rules on shared parental leave?


Under the latest Government plans, new parents will soon be able to share up to 50 weeks’ leave after having a baby or adopting.

Current legislation allows new mothers to take maternity leave of up to 52 weeks whereas new fathers are only entitled to two weeks ‘ordinary’ paternity leave, or 26 weeks if the mother has returned to work.

The new system will mean a mother can return to work and transfer her unused allowance over to the father. New parents will also be permitted to alternate extended breaks between mother and father, so long as their employers agree.

It is proposed that the new parents will have to satisfy both joint and individual eligibility tests in order to be entitled to the new scheme.

In order to satisfy the joint test, parent A will have to show that parent B has worked 26 weeks of the 66 weeks preceding the child’s due date or adoption. They will also be required to demonstrate that they have earned £30 gross salary per week for any 13 of the 66 weeks.

Parent A will then have to satisfy an individual test. To do so they will need 26 weeks’ continuous employment with the same employer at the 15th week before the expected week of confinement (EWC), and still be working for the same employer when they take their leave. In order to qualify for shared parental pay, parent A will need to have earned an average weekly salary of at least the lower earnings limit for 8 weeks before the EWC.

The rules also state that:

  • Employers will not be able to refuse leave, but can insist that employees take their leave in a single continuous block.
  • Workers must give at least eight weeks’ notice of the start date of their leave. In cases where parents are adopting a child, notice must be given within seven days of a child being matched.
  • Mothers and fathers will be able to make three notifications of change, including the original request, over the 50 week period.
  • Parents retain the right to return to the same job where the leave lasts 26 weeks or less. After that, they will have the right to return to the same or ‘similar’ job.
  • Fathers will still be entitled to their two weeks’ paternity leave straight after a child’s birth or adoption.

The new system, designed to tackle the old fashioned assumption that the mother will always be the parent who stays at home with a child, will come into effect in April 2015.

Employers will need to have an understanding of the new rules and plan for contingencies when the rules come into effect.

For more information or help with any other employment law matter, contact our Employment team on 01772 258321.   

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