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Parents can start applying for Shared Parental Leave today, although they will only be able to take it from April.
The options to use the new Shared Parental Leave rights apply for parents who meet the eligibility criteria, where a baby is due to be born on or after 5 April 2015, or for children who are placed for adoption on or after that date. Final regulations on SPL were published last week.
The key points of shared parental leave, which aims to open up parents’ options in the first year after their baby is born, are:
– Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of Maternity Leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance
– If they choose to do so, an eligible mother can end her maternity leave early and, with her partner or the child’s father, will be able to opt for SPL instead of Maternity Leave. If they both meet the qualifying requirements and both qualify, they will need to decide how they divide their total SPL and pay entitlement between them
– Paid paternity leave of two weeks will continue to be available to fathers and a mother’s or adopter’s partners
– Adopters will have the same rights as other parents to SPL and pay
– Intended parents in surrogacy who meet certain criteria will be eligible for statutory adoption leave and pay and SPL and pay.
An employee opting for SPL must notify his or her employer of their entitlement to SPL and must “book” the leave they wish to take, giving their employer at least eight weeks’ notice. Each eligible employee can give their employer up to three separate notices. Each notice can be for a block of leave, or the notice may be for a pattern of “discontinuous” leave involving different periods of leave. If a parent asks for discontinuous blocks of leave in a notification the employer can refuse and require that the total weeks of leave in the notice to be taken in a single continuous block.
An online survey of over 1,000 mums out this week shows one in three (32%) mums are still unaware of the new regulations. The survey, by uSwitch.com, also shows that families are having children later than planned, but household incomes still drop 30% to £2,181 during maternity leave – £537 less than the minimum amount needed to make ends meet. It says three in five (58%) families take on debt during maternity leave to cope, that one in two mothers are forced to return to work because they can’t afford to stay at home and 11% return purely to pay off their debts.