By Daniel Hunter

With just eight weeks to go until mums and dads with babies due on or after 5 April can start sharing up to 50 weeks of parental leave, expectant parents and employers need to have that all-important conversation.

285,000 working couples a year are expected to be eligible for Shared Parental Leave with parents giving their employer eight weeks’ notice of the pattern of leave they intend to take.

Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said: “Shared Parental Leave will kickstart a change where fathers feel empowered to take time off to look after their kids and not feel constrained by outdated stereotypes. We recognise that this isn’t going to be easy for those at the forefront of the change but we also know that for many dads the nerves they feel about having a conversation with their boss around leave will be worth it in the end.

“Countless research studies show that more time with dads early on leads to better outcomes for children, not to mention the special family bond it creates. We also know that many employers are incredibly supportive and keen to offer mums and dads more flexibility. Employers will see the benefit in terms of staff loyalty and providing women the option to return to work earlier. That’s why employers like Shell, Deloitte, Linklaters, PWC and the Civil Service are offering parents enhanced shared parental pay in line with their maternity packages.”

To help parents and businesses understand their rights and responsibilities, BIS and ACAS have a top tips guide to Shared Parental Leave:

- The first thing to do is make sure you are eligible for Shared Parental Leave. This quick and easy online tool will do the hard work for you:

- Talk to your partner before speaking to your employer. The combinations are flexible so make sure they fit around your life and work for you as a couple. Maybe you want to double up in the early days for extra support or you might decide to tag-team halfway through — the choice is yours.

- Have the conversation with your employer as early as you can. The sooner you do, the easier it will be to make plans for your time away from the work. Remember you have to give your employer at least eight weeks’ notice of your intention to take Shared Parental Leave.

- Check to see if your employer offers an enhanced package (a package over and above statutory), and if they do, what type of package it is.

- Most importantly, know your rights. No employers can opt out of Shared Parental Leave if you are eligible.

Acas Chair Sir Brendan Barber said: “Businesses and employees should familiarise themselves with these new rights now as there are less than eight weeks to go until Shared Parental Leave is available to working parents expecting a child on or after 5 April.

"As workplace experts, we have published a new free guide on Shared Parental Leave: to help employers and employees understand how these new changes will affect them and how to manage leave requests fairly.

“Our advice to eligible employees and their employers is to start having early discussions about the different options available so that preparing and planning the leave is as straightforward as possible. We are also running training courses to help employers prepare for the legal changes."

Brie Rogers Lowery, UK Director of said: "Offering 18 weeks fully paid parental leave is good for our staff and good for our business and we're already seeing the benefits to both just months after launch. We believe that equalising parental leave makes for happier parents and children, and therefore is better for business. We’d love to see businesses across the UK take up the challenge."

Join us on
Follow @freshbusiness