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Government outlines how mums and dads can use new shared parental leave system

In February 2013, the Government consulted on its views as to how the system for shared parental leave and pay should operate. The measures for shared parental leave and flexible working are included in the Children and Families Bill 2013 which is currently going through Parliament. The scheme details will be set out in regulations. In the response to the consultation, the Government announced that it will:

  • protect mothers who give binding notice to opt into shared parental leave prior to giving birth by introducing a right to revoke the notice up to 6 weeks following birth;
  • require employees to give: (i) a non-binding indication of when they expect to take their allocated leave when they initially notify their employers of their intention to take shared parental leave; and (ii) at least 8 weeks’ notice of any leave they will actually be taking;
  • introduce a limit of 3 notifications a parent can give the employer to take a period of shared parental leave; provision will be made for changes that are mutually agreed between the employer and employee to not count towards the cap;
  • set the cut-off point for taking shared parental leave at 52 weeks following birth (or adoption);
  • create a new provision for each parent to have up to 20 days under shared parental leave to support them in returning to work;
  • maintain the right to return to the same job for employees returning from any period of leave that includes maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave that totals 26 weeks or less in aggregate – even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks; any subsequent leave will attract the right to return to the same job, or if that is not reasonably practicable, a similar job;
  • align the notice periods for leave and pay for a parent taking paternity leave to make the system simpler;
  • publish guidance to encourage employees who qualify under the new fostering-for-adoption placement process to give employers as much warning as possible.

The Government also highlight that the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks or more. Employers are obliged to consider all requests in a reasonable manner. The current statutory procedure will be repealed to lift the burden on business and the Government has asked Acas to produce a code of practice to help businesses manage this new extended right. Acas will also produce a non statutory good practice guide with practical examples of managing this in the workplace. This will be published alongside the final Code early next year.

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