By Angela Shields, Employment Partner, Pitmans LLP

So what next for both? The field of employment law grows and the next item on the agenda is the new system of shared parental leave. From 5th April 2015, the Children and Families Act 2014 will allow parents to share the statutory maternity leave and pay that is currently on offer only to mothers or the primary adoptive parent.

Who will qualify? Basically, any parent who is not expecting a child at the date they join your business will be entitled to use the system of shared parental leave. Therefore any current employees will be covered by the new system.

What will they be entitled too? Qualifying parents will be entitled to share 50 weeks maternity leave and 37 weeks of maternity pay between them. The mother has to take the two week compulsory leave period and pay as a minimum.

The standard maternity scheme of 52 weeks leave and 39 weeks’ pay will continue to run alongside and be the normal default scheme for mothers. Standard paternity leave of two weeks will continue to be the default position for fathers but additional paternity leave and pay will disappear.

If parents wish to move to the new scheme they can request Shared Parental leave (SPL) and Shared Parental Pay (SPP). This does mean that both parents can be on SPL at the same time.

How will it work? It is proposed to be a “light weight” administrative arrangement. The mother will give notice that she wishes to use the new system before the child’s birth. She can change her mind within 6 weeks after the baby’s birth. Both parents are required to give eight weeks’ notice to begin SPL and receive SPP. There is a discussion period of two weeks between employee and employer during the eight weeks’ notice period.

Parents do have to provide an indication of their expected pattern of SPL to their employer. Additionally, an employee can make three separate requests for SPL or changes to SPL and, with agreement of the employer, can make further requests and changes.

It is worth noting that an employer does not have to agree to a pattern of SPL being taken by a parent and the default position is to agree to one continuous period of SPL starting on a particular date.

Furthermore, contrary to the original consultation, the respective employers will not need to liaise with each other.

What shall I do now to plan ahead? Take a look at the record keeping side of your HR department. Change your family policies to reflect the new changes and produce appropriate forms so that your HR processes run smoothly.

Is this going to affect my business? New family rules take time to be adopted by employees. Parents are likely to make immediate use of this new system where certain individual characteristics apply to the parental relationships, for example, the mother is a higher earner than the father.