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Stork inbound - who will be looking after the new arrival?

View profile for Gina McCadden
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The Festive Season this year starts for some when on 1 December much anticipated legislation comes into force that will give effect to the new ‘shared parental leave’ regime. The new law will apply to employees whose babies are due (or who will adopt a child) on or after 5 April 2015. Gina McCadden, Employment Lawyer, reviews the new regulations here and the changes employers need to make to their policies.

Firstly, employers need to familiarise themselves with new leave notification arrangements and amend their HR processes, including family leave policies.  The new regime is not a modification of a procedure with which HR professionals are already familiar; it’s a completely new scheme, giving parents much greater choice over how and when they take parental leave.

Basic principles

The new regime will replace Additional Statutory Paternity Leave and pay but will otherwise operate alongside the forms of statutory family leave to which employees are already entitled i.e. Maternity Leave (of 52 weeks), Adoption Leave (also 52 weeks), Ordinary Paternity Leave (2 weeks) and Ordinary Unpaid Parental Leave (of 18 weeks).

When the new regime takes effect, the mother of a new baby (or adopting mother) will be able to convert part of her Statutory Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay entitlement into Shared Parental Leave (ShPL) and Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). ShPL and ShPP will also be available to adoptive parents and intended parents through surrogacy. It will be possible to convert up to 50 weeks of the full (52 week) Maternity or Adoption Leave entitlement into ShPL and up to 37 weeks of the full (39 week) Statutory Maternity or Adoption Pay into ShPP.

ShPL and ShPP will be available for two parents to share, provided they both satisfy the eligibility tests. They will be able to decide how to split the leave and pay between themselves and whether they want to be off work together or at different times.  The reason for taking leave must be to care for the child and it must be taken before the child’s first birthday or, in the case of adoption, before the first anniversary of the child being placed for adoption.

Period during which leave can be taken


If a mother ends her Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay after 14 weeks, the remaining 38 weeks of the total 52 week maternity leave entitlement will be available for ShPL and the remaining 25 weeks of the total 39 week maternity pay entitlement will be available for ShPP. The 38 weeks of ShPL and the 25 weeks of ShPP can be shared between the mother and father if they are both eligible.

A woman who has given birth cannot take ShPL until after her period of compulsory maternity leave ends. This means that the earliest she can take ShPL is 2 weeks after the birth (or 4 weeks in the case of factory workers).  Similarly, an employee who takes Adoption Leave must take at least 2 weeks of such leave before he or she can switch to ShPL. In contrast, the Government intends that the other parent should be able to take ShPL from as soon as the child is born or placed for adoption, although the availability of paternity leave means that they are perhaps unlikely to do so.

This is a new approach to sharing childcare responsibilities; one that is intended to encourage retention of skills in the workplace and to permit a far greater degree of flexibility than has historically been the case. It will impact particularly upon small businesses across the region, and great care must be taken in ensuring the new regulations are understood and reflected in the workplace policies.

For more information on this complex topic please contact Gina or another member of the Employment Team on 02380 717717 or email


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.