Employers face a potential headache with the introduction of new regulations in a matter of weeks which will allow fathers to share ‘maternity’ leave.
The new legislation means mothers and fathers can take parental leave and claim statutory parental pay following the birth of a child.
The Shared Parental Leave rules come into force on April 5 – and businesses need to be prepared for the impact. Here are DTM’s top tips to ensure you’re ready for the changes.
1) Have you got a Shared Parental Leave policy in place?
It is really important to set out how your business is going to manage Shared Parental Leave, including the practicalities of the process that the employee(s) are required to follow.
It is equally important to ensure managers or anyone who will be responsible for managing the process has a clear understanding of the policy and what needs to be considered when making decisions. Communicate and train so everyone is clear and comfortable in dealing with this issue.
Your employees are a vital asset in our business, so talk to them!
Sit down and talk to your employee(s) about their plans, what they would like to do and any concerns that they have.
The more you communicate and keep each other updated, the easier it will be for you to plan and manage your business as well as making your employee(s) feel involved and reassured.
E-mail cannot replace the positive impact of a face to face conversations and investing time in your staff.
3) How are you going to keep track of what your staff are doing in respect of their leave and pay?
We all hate admin, but keeping accurate records is vital. Make sure you record and diarise all key dates.
Having a set of template letters to confirm in writing decisions that are agreed, and a flow chart document to ensure that you have covered everything you need to check and box off with staff would be really useful.
4) How will you keep track of how the leave is being shared between parents?
This is a really tricky point. It makes perfect sense that you will probably want to liaise with the partner’s employer to ensure that the plans that both employees are making independently ensures that they are within the bounds of the maximum entitlement that they are able to take.
Confidentiality is a big issue here and you must not disclose any information about your employee before obtaining their consent, even if that disclosure is to their partner’s employer. Equally, be mindful that the partner’s employer will also have to obtain consent from their employee before providing you with any information.
This is where good communication will help: talk to your employee and let them know you plan to contact their partner’s employer so that it doesn’t come as a shock and feel like you are doing something behind their back. They can then inform their partner to let them know that you plan to approach their employer.
5) Is this a good opportunity to review your current enhanced benefits and flexible working arrangements?
It is likely that your employee and their partner will have considered the best possible combination for them from a practical point of view. Be mindful of the changes and flexibility this policy adds to your employee and consider whether it would be worth considering changes which may mean less change between non–consecutive periods of leave.
For instance, envisage a scenario where a mother takes the first 6 weeks off to maximise on the statutory 90% pay, with the father taking the next period of leave because he has enhanced benefits. The mother then uses her 20 keeping in touch days in a staggered return to work, but then decides she has returned too soon and wants to take the remaining period of leave that the couple has. A logistical and administrational nightmare!
6) If you do consider enhancements then be wary of gender inequality!
Employers may want to consider any enhancements that they offer to employees, particularly those on maternity leave.
Views are currently divided as to whether offering enhanced maternity benefits but not enhanced SPL benefits could be considered discriminatory.
You need to be prepared to explain your decisions if challenged.
With employees being able to request to take their leave in blocks either consecutively or concurrently as long the period does not exceed their entire entitlement for the couple, it is possible that your employee may be in and out of the business over a set period of time.
Make sure you plan ahead before they go off as to how you are practically going to deal with this and take the opportunity to make any necessary arrangements before the employee(s) commence their leave.
Go to https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay/overview for full details of the new legislation.