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Employers Urged to Be Ready For New Parental Leave Regulations

Employers Urged to Be Ready For New Parental Leave Regulations

New employment regulations governing shared parental leave are set to come into force on December 1st 2014. Parents whose children are due to be born after April 5th 2015 will be allowed to have access to a fully flexible system of parental leave, allowing them to share the time taken to look their new baby for the first year of its life. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills estimates that around 285,000 couples will be eligible for the new benefit.

The new rules enable mothers and fathers to decide how they share a total of up to 50 weeks of maternity leave, including 37 weeks of paid leave, on top of the mandatory two weeks which must be taken by the mother. They will be able to request this be taken in several “blocks”, and must declare their intentions eight weeks prior to the leave beginning, but will be able to request a change to the plans up to three times during their time away from work.

Existing maternity and adoption rights and ordinary paternity leave and pay will remain in force.

The parental leave updated have received a mixed reception

Employment relations minister Jo Swinson commented that “Dads have a key role to play in the early weeks and months of a baby’s life and it is right that the arrangements for parental leave should reflect that”. She added that the new rules are good for employers too, “who will benefit from having a workforce that is more flexible and motivated”.

However, the new regulations have not met with universal acclaim. The Federation of Small Businesses‘ Mike Cherry has already described them as “very unwelcome”, creating uncertainty and complexity for employers; another concern is that there is no statutory requirement to match occupational maternity pay with pay for shared maternity leave. As long as the gender pay gap exists, so too do the chances of the mother taking the bulk of the time off.

Occupational psychologist Nadia Nagamootoo even argues that for the new rules to be a success, parental leave must become “not only acceptable, but trendy” for men, requiring a whole array of historical, cultural and societal barriers to be knocked down.

Important for employers to engage with new rules

Regardless of that, Acas has published a Good Practice Guide aimed at both employers and employees. Compiled with input from businesses, family groups and trade unions, it offers advice to staff on how to make requests for leave, and for employers on how to deal with the application in a fair manner.

Sarah Jackson, of work-life balance charity Working Families, welcomed the publication of the guide, commenting that “For shared parental leave to be a success both for employers and new parents it is vital that everyone has the correct information to make the right decision for their family circumstances”.

She urged business owners to study the regulations and to engage with their workforces: “I would say ‘don’t sweat the details and don’t panic’. By the time employees come to you with the forms the decisions will actually be fairly simple. There is plenty of advice out there for employees and employers alike”.

At IBB Solicitors, we take a proactive approach to workplace problems, helping employers find the best possible outcome for their employment issues. We can help advise on employment policy reviews and provide expert training for your HR team. Our specialist employment lawyers place heavy emphasis on continuing personal training and development, to ensure that they always present you with the most up-to-date legal and practical advice available.

Find out how we can help you settle disputes and stay on the right side of the UK’s ever-changing employment law by calling us on 01895 207892, or email your details to employment@ibblaw.co.uk