By Daniel Hunter

Are you ready for Shared Parental Leave? Businesses across the UK will be caught out by the new rules which come into force today (Monday), according to an employment lawyer.

Glenn Hayes, an Employment Partner at Irwin Mitchell, said businesses will be focused on the April 2015 date, rather than 1 December which is when parents can make formal requests for Shared Parental Leave.

By ignoring this date, many employers are leaving themselves exposed to discrimination claims, the firm said.

The claims are supported by a YouGov survey which found that just 22% of senior managers still know nothing about Shared Parental Leave.

Glenn Hayes, said: “Although it is some time before businesses need to adjust to their employees’ different leave patterns, many are unaware that they could face requests from staff from 1 December 2014. The truth is that if a business has an employee due to have children on or after 5 April 2015, they could start to receive requests from such staff from the start of December this year.”

Designed to provide greater flexibility for families, Shared Parental Leave will be available to eligible employees whose babies are due on after 5 April 2015, or who have a child placed with them for adoption on or after that date.

Under the new system, a pregnant woman will continue to have access to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of pay. However under the new rules, working families will have the opportunity to share this leave.

Mr Hayes added: “It is a complex piece of legislation and it is vital that companies deal with the requests correctly and familiarise themselves with how to deal with them. Many organisations are still to draw up a policy and communicate it to their staff. In my view, these companies are at risk of mishandling requests and inviting claims for discrimination.”

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