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The versatility of Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave aims to give parents flexibility in how they share leave in the year following the birth (or adoption) of a child.

Parents will be able to share a 50-week 'pot' of leave, and can decide to be off work at the same time or take turns, or a combination of both.

The primary aims is to create a more equal system which BIS says 'will move away from the current old-fashioned inflexible arrangements', 'ensuring more business are making best use of women's talents', while also 'allowing fathers to have a greater involvement in the early stages of pregnancy and raising their child'.

The flexibility of discontinuous leave

The potential to organise leave in discontinuous blocks, can make for beneficial arrangements for employers and employees alike.

Take industries that have strong seasonal demand. With judicious planning and early dialogue about intentions, employees could support their businesses by making themselves available for busy periods - perhaps creating extra earning potential in the process.

A retail assistant on Shared Parental Leave, for example, may be able to come up with a pattern of leave that enables going back to work during for the crucial Christmas period and January sales, helping colleagues and employer out, while earning additional wages or commission.

Early discussion and giving notice

What's key is that employers and employees discuss leave intentions early on, and attempt to find agreement in the way different blocks of leave can be taken.

After all, discontinuous periods of leave, such as two school terms separated by holidays, can be refused by an employer.

But eligible employees may give their employer up to three separate leave notices. If notice is for a continuous block of leave, an employer cannot refuse it.

It seems, therefore, that an employee could insist on taking up to three discontinuous blocks of leave, if each is asked for separately.

Notice of Shared Parental Leave must be given at least 8 weeks before the start of intended leave, and leave must be taken in complete weeks.

Acas publications and services

pdf icon Shared Parental Leave: a good practice guide for employers and employees [538kb] can be downloaded for free on the Acas website, where further information for Parents and carers on Shared parental leave and pay is also available.

Acas experts can visit your organisation and help you develop effective policies for working parents; see Parents and carers: how Acas can help for details.

Acas training on Maternity, paternity and adoption will keep you up to speed with all the changes surrounding Shared Parental Leave, as well as improve your understanding of the law in the way it relates to other family-relevant employment legislation.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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