Last week ACAS released a good practice guide on shared parental leave (SPL) for both employers and employees. For any child whose expected birthdate is on or after 5th April 2015, eligible parents will be able to share the care of their child in the first year after birth. The main difference is that the time off does not have to be taken in single block and can be shared by the parents. The default position will be the current maternity leave regime is 52 weeks. To take SPL, the mother will have to end her maternity leave and actively opt for SPL.
When you become aware of a pregnancy / adoption match, you should arrange an informal discussion to raise the option of SPL. ACAS recommend allowing the employee the right to be accompanied at these meetings, even by a friend or family member. An employee has to book the leave and has a statutory right to up to three notifications; you may provide more. If an employee wishes to take Shared Parental Leave he or she must provide you with a notice of entitlement to take SPL. The notice must be given at least eight weeks before the start of a period of SPL. Each parent entitled and intending to take Shared Parental Leave must give you a notice which must include:
- How much leave is available
- How much leave they are entitled to take
- How much leave the parent is intending to take
- How they expect to take it
If you receive notification of SPL arrange a meeting to discuss how it will be taken. This meeting is informal but ACAS recommend allowing the right to be accompanied. The meeting will allow you to gain an idea of the type of leave and pattern of leave. You may say what will work for the Company. This meeting will give you and the employee more time to consider available options.
There is a new right (and very clumpy phrase to describe it) “discontinuous leave” ie leave which is taken in separate blocks. For example, a block of eight weeks leave might be made up of a week of leave, a week at work and so on.
Each notice given by the employee can be for a block of leave, or the notice may be for a pattern of discontinuous leave involving different periods of leave. If a parent asks for discontinuous blocks of leave in a notification you can refuse and require that the total weeks of leave in the notice to be taken in a single continuous block. However, where the employee's notification is for a continuous block of leave you have to agree as long as the correct notice (eight weeks) is given. When notification of continuous leave is given to you, you should confirm receipt of it in writing.
If an employee requests discontinuous leave, you have 14 days to meet with the employee (with the right to be accompanied) to discuss the proposal. There are four outcomes available to you once you have received, considered and discussed an SPL notification.
A) A continuous leave notification must be unconditionally accepted.
B) Whilst the employee is under no obligation to modify a continuous leave notification, and should never be put under pressure to do so, you may attempt to seek an agreed modification to a continuous leave request.
C) A discontinuous leave notification can be refused.
D) Whilst it is not good practice and should be avoided, it is possible to make no response to a leave notification.
For outcomes C and D above, employees can withdraw their notification on or before the 15th day after the notification was originally made and it will not count as one of their three notifications. If not, they must take the total amount of leave notified in one continuous block. The employee can choose when this leave period will begin within19 days of the date the notification was given to the employer but it cannot start sooner than the initial notified start date. If they don't, the leave will begin on the starting date stated in the original notification. Any agreed changes to the request should also be confirmed in writing. If discontinuous leave is refused, you should provide all the following within 14 days;
- Confirmation of refusal
- Proposed alternative dates
- Clear information on the options available.
Employees should give written notification to vary or cancel leave. A variation must be made at least eight weeks before the dates varied begin. A notice to book SPL will count as a notification.
You can offer an employee up to 20 Shared Parental Leave in Touch days (SPLIT days). There is no obligation to offer these days and the employee is under no obligation to accept. These are used in the same way KIT days are used in Maternity Leave.
All employees have a right to suffer no detriment for choosing to take SPL.
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