The Government Announces a new system of Shared Parental Leave

In February 2013, the government invited views on how a new system for shared parental leave and pay should operate.  On 29 November 2013 they published information on how the new system will work.  The legislation is currently going through the House of Lords in the Children and Families Bill, and will be implemented in 2015.  Draft regulations detailing how the system will work in detail will be published before the Bill receives Royal Assent.
The goal
The new system of parental leave intends to give parents more choice and freedom in how they share the care of their child in the first year after birth.  It is hoped that the new system will allow a degree of flexibility so that women will have the right to pursue their career goals and not feel that they have to choose between having a successful career and having a baby.
What does this mean for working mums and dads?  
The new system will allow working mums and dads to be absent from work to care for a child for a maximum of 52 weeks.  Mums and dads will be able to take the leave separately or together if they choose to, and eligible couples will be able to take up to 39 weeks of shared parental pay.
What does this mean for employers?
Employees will have to give notice of their intention to opt into the share parental system, including a non-binding indication of how they expect to take their leave.  They will also need to give a minimum of 8 weeks of notice of their intention to take any period of leave.  To keep the disruption to employers to a minimum, only 3 notifications of leave or variations to leave will be allowed.
Each parent will also have up to 20 ‘Keeping in Touch Days’ while on parental leave and the right to return to the same job.
The new system has been branded ‘a nightmare’ by the Institute of Directors (IoD) who believe that it will ‘heap yet more burdens on struggling employers’.  By contrast, family campaign groups and the TUC have broadly welcomed the changes.  Only time will tell whether the increased flexibility leads to a happier and more productive workforce, or just causes headaches for business owners.
If you are affected by any issues around maternity, paternity or parental leave, contact us today for advice.
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The Backhouse Solicitors Team