Shared Parental Leave - five things employers need to know

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is now available to parents with babies due on or after 5 April 2015. Many businesses will have well-developed policies already in place, but all employers now need to get to grips with the new legislation. To help, here are five things all companies need to know about SPL:
  1. SPL is not a freestanding right for parents: the mother must sacrifice some of her maternity leave in order for her and her partner to take SPL.  Once the mother returns from maternity leave, any subsequent periods of leave are treated as SPL.  
  2. Maternity leave and ordinary paternity leave (two weeks) remain unchanged by the introduction of SPL. Additional paternity leave, however, has been abolished.  
  3. A parent is entitled to submit three booking notices and thereby take several different periods of SPL (including discontinuous periods) within the year following childbirth. This could in theory allow an employee to take multiple discontinuous periods of SPL during the year with the employer’s consent.  Planning for the disruption this may cause is a key challenge of the new law.  
  4. Despite quite complex notification and eligibility requirements, there are no official government forms to assist employees who want to take SPL. Employers should consider putting in place an SPL policy with the appropriate forms to help their staff – if you need help with this we have designed our own templates.  
  5. Although, SPL can be used to share up to 37 weeks of statutory maternity pay, there is no legislative requirement to enhance pay for parents taking SPL, even if the company enhances maternity pay above the statutory level. However, there is a risk of discrimination claims where a business chooses to enhance maternity pay only and not SPL.

The new system is complex, and the risks of discrimination claims in particular will vary from business to business.