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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
In a little under 3 weeks, on 5 April 2015, Shared Parental Leave (SPL) comes into force. The idea behind Shared Parental Leave is that both parents can share up to 50 weeks of the mother’s maternity leave after the child is born.
You should start taking steps now to prepare your business for the flood of notifications that you are likely to receive. Sounds a little overdramatic, I know, but over the next couple of months, there is going to be a media campaign encouraging new parents to utilise Shared Parental Leave and encourage fathers to take a more active role in the first year of their child’s life.
Whilst I agree that there needs to be a huge cultural shift in in the perception of fathers staying at home to look after the children, and a change in mindset from mothers on maternity leave (having recently returned from maternity leave myself, I’m not sure I would have wanted to share much of the leave with my husband – I was having far too much fun at home with my little girl!), taking Shared Parental Leave could be very attractive to families for financial reasons. Money is still tight in the majority of homes across the country and it is becoming increasingly common for women to be the main breadwinners.
In these circumstances, employers may find that more fathers are choosing to stay at home whilst the mother returns to work for financial reasons. Good news for the mother’s employer, not so good news for the father’s employer! Either way, businesses need to be prepared. You need to make sure that you understand Shared Parental Leave so you can put a clear policy in place that it is effectively communicated to all employees – this will make your lives so much easier when the requests start coming (which, politicians assure us, they will).
You also need to ensure that you start thinking about how you are going to cover any periods of leave – 8 weeks (the length of notice an employee needs to provide to you) is not long to arrange cover, either on a long term or short term basis. Finally, and by no means least, your line managers and those dealing with the requests need to be trained in how to deal with the process, particularly to head off any claims for discrimination that may arise because a father in your business is being treated differently to a mother in your business when taking and requesting Shared Parental Leave.