Getting behind Shared Parental Leave

As an employer, it’s inevitable that you’ll develop a close friendship with employees. The news that one of them is about to become a parent will therefore be joyfully received in your organisation.

Simon Dalley: BrightHR Brand Marketing Manager

When employees announce that there will soon be an addition to their family, there are a number of things an employer needs to consider. Shared Parental Leave is one of them.

As the employer, you’ll be forgiven for having some concerns about the absence of an employee. However, it’s important that employers start to appreciate the benefits of parental absence, including the benefits of Shared Parental Leave.

Prior to April 2015, mothers had maternity leave and fathers had been entitled to extended paid paternity leave, known as ‘Additional Paternity Leave’. In 2015, ‘Shared Parental Leave’ was legislated, enabling parents to have more choice in how they could share childcare during the first year of their newborn’s life, or following adoption.

How does Shared Parental Leave work?

As it says on the tin, Shared Parental Leave allows new parents to share their parental leave, either by being off at the same time, or taking leave in bursts.

In order to be eligible for Shared Parental Leave, the child’s mother has to qualify for maternity leave or adoption entitlement. The mother must also give notice that they intend to share maternity leave allowance with a named partner. The mother’s named partner must also pass the ‘Continuity of Employment Test’ and the ‘Employment and Earnings Test’.

Assuming both partners are eligible, Shared Parental Leave can then be taken within the first 12 months following the birth or placement of the child.

Whoever is taking the leave receives 90 per cent of their normal salary for the first six weeks after the birth. However, after six weeks this drops to a statutory allowance, currently £139.58 a week or 90% of your employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

Your employees are entitled to send you three separate notices to book leave, which have to be taken in complete weeks. Legally you cannot refuse a request for continuous leave, however you can refuse discontinuous leave. If you do consider it best for your business to refuse discontinuous Shared Parental Leave (for example where an employee carries out project work that regularly stretches throughout the requested period), it’s a good idea to get some employment law advice to ensure you follow the right procedure.

Speak to your employee early

Once the excitement of your employee’s initial announcement has passed, it’s time to discuss what their plans are. This is especially important if you feel there may be an issue with a discontinuous Shared Parental Leave absence request.

Have an informal chat to share your company policies and documents with them so they have all the information at hand regarding their parental leave options. As Shared Parental Leave is relatively new, it’s probably a good idea to speak to your employee about the differences between Maternity Leave/Adoption Entitlement and Paternity Leave. To find out more about these differences visit the BrightBase or alternatively you can get employment law advice from BrightGuru.

If your employee wants to access their Shared Parental Leave option, it’s likely they’ll need to speak with their partner following your meeting. Keep this in mind for your planning and processes, and ask for an official request for your records.

While some people may feel more comfortable submitting a formal letter, our absence management software enables a detailed Shared Parental Leave request to be securely submitted from the employee’s computer or mobile device. This can minimise anxiety some employees experience during this period, and reduce the need for paperwork or filing.

Encouraging people to take Shared Parental Leave

Despite the ability to take increased time off, research currently suggests only a small number of eligible partners are choosing to share an allowance.

Shared Parental Leave offers an opportunity for businesses as well as their employees. The initial period after the arrival of a new child can be difficult and result in tired, stressed new parent employees. That’s no good for anyone.

In the long term, it’s envisaged that an increased uptake of Shared Parental Leave by men will contribute to closing the gender pay gap and ensure female employees are more likely to return to the workforce. Accommodating Shared Parental Leave could therefore have huge business benefits in the medium to long term.

By ensuring your employee has all the information they need to make an informed choice about Shared Parental Leave, you’ll be on your way to maintaining your positive and productive working relationship. And with your support, they’ll be free to focus on the next steps of their parenting journey.

Shared parental leave is just one of the types of leave our simple absence management software can help you with. Take a look at our product features list here.