Are you ready for the new Family Leave rules?

The pivotal ‘due date’ for the shared parental leave rules is 5 April 2015, which means the parents of babies born in the next weeks will be the first to benefit from the new arrangements, provided both parents qualify. The government says around 285,000 couples are expected to be eligible, but the government predicts a take-up of only 5,700 couples in the scheme’s first year.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell believes these estimates are too low. In a survey which it carried out of 2,000 working couples, it found that 66% of male respondents said they would like to be their baby’s main carer in its first year, and 61% said this would be the case even if it had a detrimental effect on their career. More than a third of men said sharing the leave and pay was the best option for them as their partners were on higher salaries.

Employment partner Glenn Hayes commented,

These figures may take businesses by surprise. The shared parental leave rules are designed to encourage more dads to play an active role in the upbringing of their children, but the financial situation in the home will be the greatest influence on who takes it up. Many businesses have been slow to prepare themselves for this important change and in doing so have left themselves open to the risk of mishandling requests and inviting claims for discrimination.

Statutory paternity leave is unchanged by the new shared parental leave rules. The Labour party has recently pledged to double its current length from two weeks to four, and raise the statutory paternity pay rate by £100 to £260 a week, if it forms the next government. Law firm Norton Rose Fulbright’s head of employment practice Paul Griffin said that as this new rate would only reflect the national minimum wage, “it may not be that attractive”. He said that in a survey his firm conducted last year on shared parental leave, the key stumbling blocks were low pay levels during leave and “entrenched cultural resistance to men taking an active role in childcare. 89% of respondents among employers predicted a low level of take-up. These new proposals in the same vein may, therefore, have limited impact.”

The advent of the shared parental leave rules has put the increase in parental leave next month in the shade. From 5 April 2015 parents can take parental leave (which is unpaid) up to their child’s 18th birthday – previously it was only available until the child was five years old. Parents can take a maximum of four weeks in any one year.

Petaurum Solutions’ Comment

Another complex area of employment law arena that needs careful handling by employers.  At Petaurum Solutions we are experts in ensuring your policies, processes and working practices not only comply with legislation but are also appropriate for your business. Talk to us to see how we can help.

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