Is Dorset & Hampshire ready for Shared Parental Leave?
By Suzi Dixon, Community Editor
How does your HR department handle requests for Shared Parental Leave? Parents with babies born on or after April 5 2015 can now split the time they take off after the birth and even take shared parental leave at the same time, even if they work at the same firm.
And, while requests may have been coming in since December, it is more likely now, as workers see their colleagues take advantage of the change to the employment law, that you are likely to receive a request. What’s more, the new rules apply to couples who are adopting, in a same-sex partnership, or looking after a baby from a previous relationship, as well as to birth parents.
So essentially every employee in your business will be eligible for SPL if and when they choose to start a family.
The Guardian newspaper says business leaders have called the new rules a ‘nightmare’ but Kate Fretten and Paul Burton from Frettens Solicitors had some excellent advice for company owners and HR officials who attended our latest Bond Williams HR seminar at AFC Bournemouth last week.
The presentation ran through the entire process, from the employee submitting a request to the actual leave. The ‘notice of entitlement’ is a signed declaration that must detail the leave your employee plans to take, and when – SPL can be taken in three blocks of at least a complete week, over the qualifying period. You should of course check all information with your employee’s spouse’s firm and request a birth or adoption certificate. If the leave is ‘continuous’ the employer MUST agree; this is the case in the majority of requests, Frettens advise. However ‘discontinuous’ leave, that is where there are breaks in between, can be re-negotiated – ideal if you have particular work spikes or special projects coming up. What’s more, you can book up to 20 SPLIT (Shared parental leave in touch) days with the employee for things such as training. This is similar to the rules for KIT days for mothers on maternity leave.
Along with flexible working, the measures may be causing concern for businesses in Dorset and Hampshire. But once you have your head around the process, and your employees are clear about what they can and cannot do, the long-term benefits should become more apparent.
After all, helping your employees juggle work and family life is a sure-fire way to ensure you have a happy, and productive, workforce.
“The key to managing Shared Parental Leave successfully is all in the paperwork,” advised Paul Burton at the seminar. “Have the forms ready. Then the onus is on the employee to make the request and self-certify the information.” What’s more, they must give eight weeks’ notice and they must produce documentation – such as a birth certificate – within 14 days of such a request or else they lose the right to SPL.
In the run up to the General Election, SPL is just one policy the Coalition are pointing to in order to demonstrate their support for working families. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is confident the new legislation will “sweep away those Edwardian rules which hold back families working hard to juggle their responsibilities at home and work”.
Acas has produced a comprehensive guide to SPL at acas.org.uk/spl