You may now start seeing requests for Shared Parental Leave (ShPL) coming through, due to the new rules that were introduced in April 2015. Under these rules, if a woman wants to go back to work early, without using her full maternity leave/pay entitlement, her partner can pick up this remaining entitlement. The upshot is that you may see an increase in requests for ShPL from fathers in your workforce. The thing to remember, of course, is that SPL is statutory, so there is no flexibility for employers and any requests must be treated the same as current maternity leave and pay requests.
The main aim of the new system is to help women return to the workplace and allow men to have more involvement in caring for new babies. For the hospitality sector, in certain areas which may be more male-dominated such as your kitchen, this may mean a potential rise in requests for leave under the new ShPL system. So you need to plan well in advance for cover, particularly for peak seasons.
The amount of leave a couple can share is 50 weeks, after the initial 2 weeks following the birth which have to be taken by the mother – making a total of 52 weeks. To give an example of how this could work, if an employee’s partner decides to return to work 3 months after giving birth, that employee can request leave of up to 9 months, under the new system.
When it comes to pay, as an employer you can top up. Otherwise, pay will be at the statutory level for 39 of the 52 weeks based on the salary of the parent on leave. For the first six weeks the person on leave will receive 90% of his or her average weekly earnings before tax, after which it will be 90% or £139.78 – whichever is lower – for 33 weeks. For financial help with statutory pay, you can reclaim payments (usually 92%) or apply for an advance if you can’t afford payments.
If you currently offer enhanced maternity pay above the statutory level, then you will need to decide whether you are going to pay the same for partners taking ShPL. The Government guidelines say you don’t have to do this, but there is an expectation that a failure to do so could be open to challenge.
There are detailed rules relating to notice and blocks of leave – for further information check out the guidelines here: https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay-employer-guide/overview or contact FGHR on info@FrancesGillespie-HR.com