Shared parental leave and pay: implications for employers

03 September 2014

BusinessHR point out first that whilst the changes will only apply to those whose babies

are due, or who adopt a child, on or after 5 April 2015, employees who are now pregnant or seeking to adopt a child may well be starting to inform you of their plans and to request details of their future entitlements. They are currently working on an updated template

policy and guidelines for employees, but just to summarise:

· Maternity leave and pay: remain unaltered. A woman who wants to take advantage of this may still do so as the "default" position. So reasonable paid time off for ante-natal appointments; 52 weeks' leave, irrespective of length of service; and (for those with 26 weeks' continuous service by the fifteenth week before the baby is due) 39 weeks' Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) - 6 at 90% of earnings and 33 at the flat rate. Those who do not qualify for SMP may receive maternity allowance (MA).

· Additional paternity leave will be abolished. (But will continue to apply for those whose babies are due before 5 April, so you still need to keep details on this!)

· Shared parental leave: the totally new stuff! Mothers on maternity leave must still take the compulsory two weeks (or four if working in a factory) period of leave after the baby is born, but after this they may choose to end their maternity leave and take shared parental leave instead. The remaining balance of leave and pay (maximum of 50 or 48 weeks' leave) may be shared between the two parents, who may take the leave together or separately. Detailed rules cover eligibility and notice requirements.

· Adoption leave and pay: are improved. Adoption leave will become a 'day one' right with the ability to convert to the new shared parental leave system. Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) will be increased to mirror statutory maternity pay.

· Time off for ante-natal appointments: extended to fathers/mothers' partners with effect from 1 October 2014. Fathers/mothers' partners, including agency workers, will be given a new right to take unpaid time off work, of up to a maximum of 6.5 hours each occasion, to attend up to two ante-natal appointments (there will be no service requirement for this, although agency workers must have fulfilled the 12 week qualification period)

· KIT/SPLIT days: a new term to consider. Parents will be able to have up to 20 days at work, per parent, whilst on shared parental leave and (to distinguish them from KIT days) these will be known as SPLIT days. These may be used during the maternity leave period. The SPILT days are in addition to the 10 KIT days which continue to be available to a woman on maternity leave.

· Surrogacy arrangements: will be covered by adoption leave. In addition, both intended parents will have the right to unpaid leave to attend two ante-natal appointments.

· Unpaid parental leave: the age of the child is increased. The total period is now 18 weeks, but the age of the child is extended to the age of 18 instead of five as at present.

Similar rules and terminology are expected to come into force in Northern Ireland in 2015.

The good news for employers is that the EU Commission has now withdrawn its proposals to increase the minimum period of maternity leave to 20 weeks on full pay - this would have resulted in yet further change!

The main issue for employers who currently offer enhanced benefits will be whether to extend these to all staff on shared parental leave, with the additional cost that this may bring. Many may have already extended their previous maternity provisions to cover adoption leave - do they now extend this further to cover fathers/partners of individuals who are not their own employees? The Government states that employers may continue to offer 'maternity' benefits to women only and women who choose to end their maternity leave

to take shared parental leave will only be entitled to any enhanced contractual maternity benefits while they are on actual maternity leave, not shared parental leave. Employers can of course choose to offer enhanced schemes for those on shared parental leave, but if they choose to do so, will need to offer the benefits to both men and women on shared parental leave.

A study of more than 100 employers, by service provider My Family Care, found that employers differ enormously in both the length and level of enhanced schemes. A quarter of organisations reported that they only offer statutory maternity pay, while 16% offered only statutory paternity pay. Most respondents with more than 5,000 employees provided enhanced maternity pay, with the majority of these offering enhanced pay for new fathers as well. The amount of enhanced pay ranged from three weeks to a year, and there was little

consistency in benefits by sectors (with the exception of legal and banking sector who all tended to offer enhanced benefits).