Shared Parental Leave and Settlement Agreements

It is important that employees are aware of upcoming changes to parental leave. We will keep you up to date on developments as they happen.

In February 2013 the Government set out its proposals for a new system of statutory parental rights for employees and agency workers in the consultation paper “Modern Workplaces: shared parental leave and pay”.

In November 2013 the Government published its response to the consultation and confirmed that:

 
  • women must give at least eight weeks’ notice of their intention to end maternity leave and pay and to begin shared parental leave (SPL) and to claim shared parental pay (SPP);

  • to ensure both parents can claim SPL and SPP straight after the two week period of compulsory maternity leave, women will be able to give notice before their baby is born;

  • both parents must give their employer eight weeks’ notice to begin SPL. Where parents intend to take several blocks of leave they must give employers eight weeks notice in respect of each period of SPL;

  • when parents inform their employers of their plans for SPL they will need to provide employers with an indication of their pattern of leave, but this is not binding;

  • a notice to end maternity leave along with a notice to take SPL and SPP will be binding unless (i) one parent discovers during the eight-week notice period that they are not eligible to receive SPL or SPP or (ii) the woman gave notice before giving birth – the Government appreciate that the reality of having a baby may make parents change their plans, therefore a mother will be entitled to change those plans up to six weeks after the birth; and

  • in response to the Consultation, each employee can make up to three requests to take periods of leave. Any further requests will be made with the authorisation of the employer.

“Keeping in touch” days


Under the current scheme a woman can work for up to 10 days for her employer without ending her maternity leave. In addition to this the Government has decided that each parent taking SPL can take up to 20 “KIT” days, although they may apply an alternative label to the days under the new system.

Returning to work


As long as each parent has taken no more than 26 weeks’ leave in total, the Government has decided that parents should have the right to return to the same job, in the same way that mothers currently returning from Ordinary Maternity Leave do. Mothers currently returning from Additional Maternity leave, have the right to return to the same job, or where this is not reasonably practicable for the employer, to a suitable alternative job so long as the terms of her employment are not less favourable.

The proposed changes will be implemented by the Children and Families Bill 2013 which is currently going through Parliament. The proposals have received a mixed reaction from business groups. Some believe it is an excellent step towards shattering the perception that child rearing is a mother’s role and creating gender equality in the work place. Others have criticised the proposals as a “nightmare for employers” creating a complex system for which employers will have to absorb the costs.

It is important you are aware of your rights in case your employer does not allow you to enjoy your full rights. It can easily escalate into a conflict between the parties. If you are in this kind of situation and have been offered a Settlement Agreement to resolve this type of dispute please feel free to contact us.

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