UK: New rules promote shared parental leave

Regulations introducing a new scheme for shared parental leave were introduced on 1 December 2014.

Parents now have greater flexibility in how they share the care of their child in the first year after birth.

The new rules affect parents whose babies are due on or after 5 April 2015, or children placed for adoption on or after that date.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has issued a technical guide for employers of shared parental leave and pay, while Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, released a good practice guide for employers and employees. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, CIPD, has produced a factsheet for its members on shared parental leave.

The rationale for the changes was set out in a BIS consultation document on the administration of shared parental leave and pay issued in February 2013. This argued that the current system was gender biased, was inflexible and did little to promote shared parenting. A non-statutory response was not thought to be an appropriate means to deliver a more flexible system.

The TUC has produced two Know Your Rights booklets, one aimed at mothers and the second aimed at fathers and partners, which provide guidance on the changes.

It is already apparent that the take-up of shared parental pay will partly depend on employer practice. If employers choose to enhance shared parental pay in the same way that many do for maternity pay, then take-up of sharing is likely to be higher. 

Some survey evidence already suggests that the majority of organisations which enhance maternity pay will do the same for shared parental pay.

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