Significant alterations to parental leave rights will come into effect on 5th April this year which will render existing maternity leave policies out of date.
The changes will apply to parents of babies due on or after this date and to adoptive parents who are matched with a child from 5th April onwards.
However a recent survey by Working Families - which promotes a work life balance in the UK - found that 40 per cent of companies are not ready for the system of Shared Parental Leave (SPL).
The measures will allow an employee whose baby is due on or after 5th April to end her maternity leave at any time after the compulsory two week minimum and to share the remaining period, up to a maximum of 50 weeks, with her husband or life partner.
Shared Parental Leave allows employees to take up to three separate blocks of leave each, totalling 52 weeks between them, paid at the rate of £138.18 per week or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings - whichever is lower, for a combined total of 39 weeks as at present. Parents will be able to decide for themselves what time they would like to take off, and how the 52 weeks is shared between them. In an extreme case the mother could take two, and the father 50 weeks of leave.
The new laws will impact on businesses - particularly SMEs - and will force companies to plan ahead for what might be up to seven periods of leave between the two parents instead of just one for the mother as at present. This is in addition to paternity leave, unpaid parental leave of up to 13 weeks and taken out ‘of course’ annual leave.
All employers will have to get ready soon and put policies and administrative systems in place in the countdown to 5th April and enquiries from pregnant employees and fathers to be could start at any time.
Employers of predominantly male workforces are likely to be the most affected as the door will now be open to several lengthy absences for “dads”.
It is also important that employees understand that they have obligations as well as rights under the new legislation and can lose their entitlement or have it affected if they fail to comply with requirements placed on them.
However, if everybody involved is aware of their rights and responsibilities and communicates effectively with one another, it will be entirely possible to manage these changes with minimum cost and interruption to businesses. For example, a business may have its busiest time in the run up to Christmas and may be keen to encourage its employees to be back from maternity leave by then – so having the father take shared parental leave from then onwards might suit everybody.
For more information contact Barry Warne on 00 44 114 252 1437 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
With offices in Sheffield, Leeds and Doncaster, hlw Keeble Hawson is one of the region’s biggest law firms and is at the heart of the business and wider community.
Legal 500 and Chambers UK continue to rank the firm as a significant player. The 2014 edition of Legal 500 recommends 17 practice areas and names 21 lawyers as leading individuals across all areas of the practice.
Chambers 2015 singles out 12 lawyers as ‘notable practitioners’ across nine practice areas.
Employing 270 staff, the firm has also been ranked in the top 10 in Experian’s table of the most active advisers in Yorkshire’s mergers and acquisitions market in 2013 and 2014.
Highly regarded, experienced commercial and private client teams provide the very best support, guidance and technical advice to entrepreneurs, SMEs and individuals.
Witnessing a substantial increase in commercial and property deals across the last 12 months, hlw Keeble Hawson represented Harworth Estates in its award-winning deal when Rolls-Royce invested £11m in the new enterprise zone at the Advanced Manufacturing Park.
The firm also acted for Pressure Technologies in a £10.3 million purchase of Glasgow based Quadscot Holding-s and a £25 million finance package from Lloyds Commercial Banking.
The highly rated employment law team is named as one of the best in Sheffield and South Yorkshire by Legal 500 who say: “The personable team is strong in transport, engineering and professional services” and recommended for expertise in TUPE and redundancy. Chambers UK also recognises the team’s work including TUPE and industrial relations concerns, with practice head Barry Warne praised for a “vast experience in the field”.