Workers with children due on or after April 5, 2015 will be able to take it in turns to have periods of leave or take leave at the same time. The old regime of additional paternity leave will be repealed, although paternity leave of either one or two weeks can still be taken within 56 days of the birth.
A mother who meets the eligibility requirements will be able to bring her maternity leave to an end by giving the required notice and sharing parental leave with her partner, who must meet the relevant eligibility requirements.
The mother must take compulsory maternity leave of two weeks but after that up to 50 weeks’ parental leave can be shared between the parents. All leave must be taken within the first 52 weeks following the birth, but it doesn’t have to be taken in one continuous block, as employees can return to work and then take a further period of shared parental leave.
In order to share parental leave, the partner needs to be the father, husband, civil partner or partner living in enduring family relationship – it does not apply to a grandparent, aunt, uncle etc.
Both parents need to opt into the scheme by giving eight weeks’ notice to their employer and detailing how much shared leave they wish to take, how the leave will be taken and to declare the partner’s name, national insurance details and that they meet the earnings test.
Arrangements are not binding at this stage and the employee can make up to three changes to their shared leave, although they need to give eight weeks’ notice. If the correct notice period is given, employers cannot refuse the leave.
If the employee requests discontinuous leave (for example to take a week in June, a week in July and a week in August) this can be refused by the employer and they can request the leave is taken in a single block.
There will also be the introduction of shared adoption leave, in addition to adoptive parents taking up to five paid adoption appointments and, if surrogate parents have a parental leave order, they too will be covered.
The regulations are still in draft form so we will provide further details once they become confirmed.