The Shared Parental Leave (SPL) law, passed on 1 December 2014, means ‘maternity leave’ is a term of the past. This new regulation will enable eligible partners – mothers, fathers and adopters – with babies due or matched for adoption on or after 5 April 2015 to share leave from work. A press release by the home office estimates that there are as many as 285,000 working couples that could benefit from this update, allowing for up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay to be distributed between the parents.
You may be wondering, how is this news relevant to me? I’m not pregnant and I’m not sure that I ever want children. The answer: it’s relevant to employers and employees alike, as it will change the landscape of flexible working in the UK.
Even if you aren’t planning on becoming a parent anytime soon, having the freedom to make that choice without worrying about the status of your career is important. Sharing the time away with a partner means less pressure on one person, and allows both parents to spend vital time with their newborn. As an employee – whether you’ve been with a company for many years or are a relatively new hire – it’s important to know what you’re entitled to.
But it’s not just the responsibility of the employees to research these new conditions. The employer must be equally informed (if not more so), especially if you are a small company focused on growing and cultivating your team. As Acas Chair Sir Brendan Barber says in the press release: ‘Many employers recognise that they can retain talented staff by offering a flexible approach to work and a healthy work life balance can help business success and growth.’
If you become aware of an employee’s pregnancy or being matched to adopt, start a healthy dialogue early. Schedule an informal meeting to go over their options, so you can work together to find the best solution for you both and be fully prepared when the time comes. If you feel that too much time away from the office would be detrimental to current projects, you can even agree on up to 20 days of Shared Parental Leave In Touch (SPLIT) days. Whether it’s a catch-up meeting via webcam or a brief half-day in the office, you can use these SPLIT days to help keep your employee a relevant part of your operations.
For more information on SPL, please read the GOV.UK guidelines and Acas’ good practice guide.