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Sharing maternity and paternity leave

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Under new Government plans that are set be introduced by April 2015, both mothers and fathers will have the right to share some of their parental leave. This will enable both parents to have a greater involvement in the childcare arrangements for the first year, as well as allowing women to return to work if they wish. How will these arrangements work and what will the changes mean for you?

What are the current arrangements?

Since April 2011, fathers have been able to share a maximum of six months leave with the mother. However, this can only start when the child reaches 20 weeks and both parents must take their leave as one continuous amount. Therefore, once the mother returns to work her maternity leave will immediately end. There is no option to split the allocation over a period of time or share the leave on a more permanent basis.

How will the new leave arrangements work?

shared paternity leaveThe new form of parental leave was announced as part of the Government’s Children and Families Bill 2013. It will mean that after April 2015, both parents will be able to share 52 weeks leave over the course of the child’s first year. The only compulsory element will be that the mother must still take the first two weeks off. However, the remaining 50 weeks can be used as required to suit the family.

The leave can either be taken as one single block or split into a maximum of three periods of leave. It gives mothers the option to return to work for a short period if required, such as to cover a busy time or illness, and then return to their maternity leave. During this time, the father would be able to stay at home and look after the baby. A parent taking a period of leave of 6 months or under has the right to go back to the same position.

Notifying your employer

Parents will still have to notify their employer of their intention to take maternity or paternity leave by the 15th week before the birth. However, if a mother requests to share their leave before the birth, they can change their mind up to 6 weeks afterwards. If they’re planning on sharing the leave, they should indicate when they’re intending to take it when making their initial request. Employees should then give a minimum of eight weeks notice before they want to start any period of shared parental leave.

Pay

During the shared parental leave, the parent who is off work will be paid at the statutory rate for 39 weeks. This is based on 90% of the average weekly income of the parent who is currently on leave for the first six weeks. The remaining 33 weeks will be paid at the statutory amount, currently £136.78 a week, or 90% of the income if this is less.

What rights do employers have?

Under these new rules, employers cannot prevent a parent from taking their leave. However, if business needs dictate, they can force them to use it in one single block. So, for example, if an employee asks to have two 10 week periods of leave, the employer could make them use this in one 20 week period instead. Employees are only entitled to make two further changes to the arrangement, following their initial request for parental leave.

This new entitlement will provide more flexibility for families over how they make childcare and work arrangements. It will be up to individual families how they use the facility.

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About Catherine Stern

About Catherine Stern

Catherine Stern is a freelance writer with a background in marketing and PR. She currently writes web content on a range of subjects, from finance and business to travel and home improvements. As a working single mum of two young boys she understands the pressures that today’s working parents face and the topics they want to read about.

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