British employers are unprepared for the impact of shared parental leave, law firm HBJ Gateley, and need to put systems in place.
First outlined at the end of 2012, shared parental leave will allow the mother and father of a new-born baby to share maternity and pay after the standard two weeks recovery mothers take.
Under current law, mothers are entitled to 52 weeks of leave and 39 weeks of statutory pay – while fathers get two weeks paternity leave and up to 26 weeks parental leave once the child is 20 weeks old.
Sarah Gilzean, associate at HBJ Gateley, believes the policy will become popular, and fast. ‘Employers who currently pay enhanced maternity pay will have to decide whether to pay those on shared parental leave the same enhanced rate or stick with the statutory minimum.
‘Failing to pay an enhanced rate could bring the risk of a sex discrimination claim from fathers on shared parental leave comparing themselves to mothers on maternity leave.’
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The legislation comes into effect on 1 December 2014 and will impact on children born on or after 5 April 2015. Initial estimates from the government suggests that only 4 per cent of men will opt to take shared parental leave in 2015-16, despite official research predicting numbers will ‘rise rapidly’ in the coming years. In Scandinavian nations such as Sweden, the rate currently sits at 90 per cent.
Come April 2015, parents will be able to take leave at the same time or separately as well as in blocks as many as three. However, managers will have the right to refuse periods of leave which would require an individual’s workload to be covered over several distinct periods.
‘Ultimately, form April 2015 more organisations will be asked by male workers to take extended periods of time off to look after their children,’ Gilzean adds. ‘For employers the challenge will be to prepare for an increasing level of demand while still retaining business continuity.’