Businesses Not Ready For Shared Parental Leave Start Date

Employers At Risk Of Discrimination Claims If Requests Handled Unlawfully

01.12.2014

David Shirt, Press Officer | 0161 838 3094

Many UK employers will get caught out by the new Shared Parental Leave (ShPL) rules which start tomorrow (Monday 1st December), says a leading employment lawyer.
 
According to national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, the majority of firms are focussed on April 2015 when new parents can start to share leave rather than 1st December this year when requests for leave can start to be made. By ignoring this date, many employers are leaving themselves exposed to discrimination claims.
 
Irwin Mitchell’s warning about low awareness levels are backed up by YouGov’s latest ` which reveals that 22% of senior managers claim to still know nothing about the new ShPL rules.
 
Their survey of 250 senior managers, which included directors and company owners, also found that 28% think that the additional rights for parental leave could create difficulties and extra work. Only 17% said they would be able to introduce the changes easily.
 
Interestingly, less than a third (31%) of senior managers also thought that the new rights were a better arrangement for parental leave than the current arrangements.

Expert Opinion
Although it is some time before businesses need to adjust to their employees’ different leave patterns, many are unaware that they could face requests from staff from 1 December 2014. The truth is that if a business has an employee due to have children on or after 5 April 2015, they could start to receive requests from such staff from the start of December this year.”
Glenn Hayes, Partner

Designed to provide greater flexibility for families, ShPL will be available to eligible employees whose babies are due on after 5 April 2015, or who have a child placed with them for adoption on or after that date. 
 
Under the new ShPL system, a pregnant woman will continue to have access to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of pay however under the new rules, working families will have the opportunity to share this leave.

Expert Opinion
It is a complex piece of legislation and it is vital that companies deal with the requests correctly and familiarise themselves with how to deal with them. Many organisations are still to draw up a policy and communicate it to their staff. In my view, these companies are at risk of mishandling requests and inviting claims for discrimination.”
Glenn Hayes, Partner

Irwin Mitchell advises companies develop their own ShPL policy if they haven’t already done so. This should include details about how employees should inform their employer, who the notification should be sent to and what should be included in it. It should also include how a notice to book leave will be handled and what contact with the organisation will be required during ShPL.