It has taken a while for the UK to catch up with most of Europe, but all this changed on 5th April with the introduction of new rules governing leave for parents of new babies born after this date, or those embarking on adopting a child. The new Shared Parental Leave legislation changes little for mothers, but means that fathers of new babies or adopted children now have the right to take extended leave, with parents able to split up to 50 weeks of leave between them as they wish. To be eligible, a father must be either:
– The father
– The husband or partner of the mother (or adopter)
– The child’s adopter
– The intended parent (if they are having a baby through surrogacy)
They need to be employed and have worked for your organisation for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (known as the ‘qualifying week’). They must also tell you that they intend to take leave by at least 15 weeks before the baby is due or, in the case of adoption, when the they are ‘matched’ with a child.
To be eligible, the employee does not have to have worked for your organisation for 26 consecutive weeks, but have clocked up this time during the 66 weeks before the week the baby is due, or the week adoptive parents are matched with their adopted child. And they need to have earned at least £390 in total in 13 of the 66 weeks – again these needn’t be consecutive. According to an article in Guardian Money the key changes are:
- Fathers’ (or mothers’ partners) can take up to 50 weeks of leave
- Couples can take all or part of the leave simultaneously
- Each parent may take up to three separate blocks of leave – so either one could return to work for a particular project, or to help with a seasonal increase in workload, for example
- Both parents need to be working, but only one has to be an employee. By the 15th week before their baby is due, one parent must have been continuously employed for six months.
The right to six weeks’ leave at 90% of full earnings remains exclusively for birth mothers and primary adopters: the rate for shared Parental Leave is up to £139.58 a week (less for lower earners) and 13 weeks of the total 50 weeks of shared leave are unpaid.
The government expects 2-8% of the estimated 285,000 eligible couples to apply for Shared Parental Leave in the first year.