Employers should plan ahead to manage the changes brought about by shared parental leave which came into effect on 5th April, urges employment law experts from LAW at Work (LAW).

The scheme allows both parents of children born on or after 5th April to apply for more flexible leave from work following the birth or adoption of their child. Couple will be able to share up to 52 weeks’ leave and 39 weeks’ statutory pay in a variety of combinations. Shared parental leave can include spouses, partners, civil partners or a partner living in an ‘enduring relationship’ with the mother and child.

Donald MacKinnon, an employment law expert from LAW, says:

“Employers should be thinking about what this change could mean for them for example – how they will cope with fathers potentially being out of the workplace for up to a year and whether they will offer enhanced pay to employees on shared parental leave if they currently offer enhanced maternity pay.

“Employers should also consider how they will manage challenging or busy periods ahead, staffing issues and levels during these periods as well as any impact to customers during the periods of agreed leave.”

The new scheme is already causing issues for employers with many businesses reporting that the new rules are proving challenging to digest. In particular, concerns are arising over the various qualifying criteria which differ vastly depending on whether referring to leave or pay and the complex notification requirements.

Greater flexibility of leave is also a new feature of the scheme, employees intending to take leave, in some cases, can return to work at the end of maternity leave and then take a period of shared parental leave at a later date.

Donald continued:

“With any changes to employment law, especially one that now offers so much flexibility to the employee, it is understandable that there are some concerns. As with any complex legislation, we recommend employers seek advice if they are in doubt of the changes and what they mean to the business.”