Shared parental leave will allow eligible mothers and their partners to be absent from work to care for a child for a maximum of 52 weeks. Eligible couples could also take up to 39 weeks of shared parental pay. A couple will be able to take the leave together so that the mother will not necessarily return to work after compulsory maternity leave. Alternatively, the mother could return to work and allow her partner to take the balance of leave, or the couple could take the leave in turns.
Employees will have to give notice to their employers of their intention to opt into the shared parental system. In doing so, employees will have to provide a non-binding indication of their expected pattern of leave. Additionally, employees will have to provide eight weeks of notice of their intention to take any period of leave. This will include a two week discussion period with their employer. A maximum of three notifications of a period of leave or variations of a period of leave will apply.
The Government has also proposed the following:
- A notice to end maternity leave in order to start shared parental leave will be binding when given prior to birth. A mother will have six weeks from birth to revoke this binding notice;
- There will be a cut-off point of 52 weeks from birth for couples to take shared parental leave;
- Each person in a couple will have up to 20 ‘Keeping in Touch Days’ while on shared parental leave; and
- The right to return to the same job will be maintained for employees returning from any period of leave (including maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave and shared parental leave) which totals 26 weeks or less in aggregate, even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks.
Draft regulations detailing how the system will work are to be published before the Bill receives Royal Assent.