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Shared Parental Leave comes into force today

Monday 01 December 2014

Workplace experts Acas are advising employers and employees to familiarise themselves with new shared parental leave rights that come into force today.

Shared parental leave (SPL) is a new legal right which allows couples to share maternity or adoption leave and pay from 5 April 2015. Couples finding out now that they are expecting a child will be among the first parents eligible to take advantage of these new rights.

Acas has produced a free detailed guide on SPL to help prepare employers and employees for the new changes. It includes a step by step guide on how eligible employees can notify their employer on their intention to take leave and advice for employers on how to deal with SPL requests fairly.

Acas Head of Guidance, Stewart Gee, said:

"Our new shared parental leave guide is designed to help employers and employees understand how the new changes will affect them and how to manage leave requests fairly.

"We advise employers and employees to start having early discussions to ensure that they can agree the sort of arrangements which work best for business and working families. We are also running training courses to help employers prepare for the legal changes."

Under the new system, a pregnant woman will continue to have access to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of pay as she does currently but from 5 April, working families will have the opportunity to share this leave between them.

A key feature of shared parental leave is that it can be taken in several blocks. Eligible parents will be able to make use of a mixture of weeks of work and leave in the first year of their child's life, returning to work between periods of leave if they wish. A parent with a partner who adopts a child will have the same rights, as will intended parents in surrogacy.

According to estimates from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), there are expected to be around 285,000 working couples who will be eligible to share their leave from April. 

Acas' full guidance Shared Parental Leave: A good practice guide for employers and employees is available at Shared parental leave and pay.

Notes to Editors

  1. The shared parental leave system will give parents more choice and freedom in how they share the care of their child in the first year after birth. More is available at Shared parental leave and pay. Only eligible employees can apply for Shared Parental Leave.
  2. Shared parental leave (SPL) overview:

    Rather than assume a mother or primary adopter will take the main caring role, SPL provides both parents with the opportunity to consider what the best arrangement is for them to care for their child during the first year.

    The regulations give eligible parents the right to take SPL and place a duty on employers to ensure that their employees are not put under pressure to cancel/change their requests or suffer any detriment for giving notice to take leave, or for taking the leave itself.

    Parents may be entitled to take up to 50 weeks SPL. The amount of leave available is calculated using the mother's entitlement to maternity or adoption leave which allows them to take up to 52 weeks leave. If they end their maternity or adoption leave early then they and/or the other parent may opt-in to the SPL system and take any remaining weeks as SPL.

    This means parents can share the caring responsibilities evenly or one parent could take on the main caring role, depending on their preferences and circumstances. Additionally, SPL allows both parents to take leave to care for the child at the same time.

    Using SPL arrangements, mothers may choose not to take as much leave as they previously did, or might not want to take all their leave in one long block. The ability of an employee to share leave with their partner and return to work between periods of leave means employers need not lose valuable experience for a prolonged period.

    Early conversations between the employer and employee will help establish what leave is being considered and to suggest what arrangements would work best for everyone. This means that employers can be much clearer, much sooner, about what leave their employee is planning.
  3. Acas is running courses on Shared parental leave for employers around the country.
  4. Acas stands for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. We aim to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. We help with employment relations by supplying up-to-date information, independent advice and high quality training, and working with employers and employees to solve problems and improve performance. Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a Council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law. For more information, see About us.
  5. Shared parental leave and pay comes into effect for babies due on or after 5 April 2015, or adoptions where the child is placed on or after 5 April.
  6. Under the scheme, working couples will be able to share untaken maternity leave and pay, following the first two weeks recovery period that mothers have to take off after birth, so up to 50 weeks leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared.
  7. The pattern of leave must be agreed between the employer and employee, with eight weeks' notice. Parents can take leave at the same time, so they can be at home together from the birth if this arranged.
  8. A sample policy on shared parental leave for employers and draft template letters for both employers and employees on how to request and handle SPL requests can be downloaded at Shared parental leave and pay
  9. For media enquiries or interview requests for an Acas spokesperson please contact Shumon Rahman, Senior Media and PR Manager on 0207 210 3688 / srahman@acas.org.uk. For out of hours media enquiries please call the out of hours duty press officer on 020 7210 3600.