New tool launched to help parents negotiate Shared Parental Leave

An online tool to help parents who might be interested in taking Shared Parental Leave has been launched by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and ACAS.

Mums and dads with babies due on or after 5 April can start sharing up to 50 weeks of parental leave. The government says 285,000 working couples a year are expected to be eligible for Shared Parental Leave with parents giving their employer eight weeks’ notice of the pattern of leave they intend to take.

BIS and ACAS have developed a tool which will help parents find out if it they are eligible for the new right.

They advise parents to:

– talk to their partner before speaking to your employer. They say: “The combinations are flexible so make sure they fit around your life and work for you as a couple. Maybe you want to double up in the early days for extra support or you might decide to tag-team halfway through – the choice is yours.”

– Talk to their employer as early as they can so they can make plans for any time away from the work. Employers must have at least eight weeks’ notice of any intention to take Shared Parental Leave.

– Check to see if their employer offers an enhanced package (a package over and above statutory), and if they do, what type of package it is.

Most importantly, they counsel that parents need to know their rights. “No employers can opt out of Shared Parental Leave if you are eligible,” they say.

Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said: “Shared Parental Leave will kickstart a change where fathers feel empowered to take time off to look after their kids and not feel constrained by outdated stereotypes. We recognise that this isn’t going to be easy for those at the forefront of the change but we also know that for many dads the nerves they feel about having a conversation with their boss around leave will be worth it in the end.

“Countless research studies show that more time with dads early on leads to better outcomes for children, not to mention the special family bond it creates. We also know that many employers are incredibly supportive and keen to offer mums and dads more flexibility. Employers will see the benefit in terms of staff loyalty and providing women the option to return to work earlier. That’s why employers like Shell, Deloitte, Linklaters, PWC and the Civil Service are offering parents enhanced shared parental pay in line with their maternity packages.”

Acas Chair Sir Brendan Barber said: “Businesses and employees should familiarise themselves with these new rights now as there are less than eight weeks to go until Shared Parental Leave is available to working parents expecting a child on or after 5 April.

“As workplace experts, we have published a new free guide on Shared Parental Leave: to help employers and employees understand how these new changes will affect them and how to manage leave requests fairly.

“Our advice to eligible employees and their employers is to start having early discussions about the different options available so that preparing and planning the leave is as straightforward as possible. We are also running training courses to help employers prepare for the legal changes.”

Brie Rogers Lowery, UK Director of said: “Offering 18 weeks fully paid parental leave is good for our staff and good for our business and we’re already seeing the benefits to both just months after launch. We believe that equalising parental leave makes for happier parents and children, and therefore is better for business. We’d love to see businesses across the UK take up the challenge.”

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