If you have a baby on the way, or are in the process of having a child matched or placed for adoption you have a whole lot on your plate to consider. Part of that will be working out who will care for them, and of course, how you will make sure that the family is provided for financially. On 5th April 2015 a new piece of legislation came into force which might just make things a little bit easier.
The key changes
Since the 5th April couples will now be able to share the entitlement which we used to call Maternity Leave (or Statutory Adoption Leave). In practice this means that after an initial two weeks, parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave from work (up to 37 weeks of which will be paid).
How might that work?
The first thing to note is that you must give your employer 8 weeks notice of your intention to take or share Parental Leave. You must also give 8 weeks notice of your intention to return to work.
Assuming you have done that, it might be that Mum and Dad take the first 22 weeks off work and then Mum returns to work, leaving Dad to take the final 10 weeks off to care for the child.
How the family makes that work financially, of course, is another matter. The first six weeks of Maternity Leave are paid at 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) but after than the next 33 weeks are at £139.58 per week (or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower). If you take Shared Parental Leave you will receive Shared Statutory Parental Pay which is £139.58 per week (or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower) up to the same total of 39 weeks between you.
The legal bit
The legislation which is making this change happen is called The Children and Families Act 2014 (CFA 2014) which actually inserts new provisions into Part 8 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996).
Of course, these new changes are optional. You don’t have to share leave – it might be appropriate for you and your family to use parental leave in the way it has been allocated until now. This would mean that Mum would be eligible for up to 52 weeks of Maternity Leave (or Statutory Adoption Leave), 39 of which would be paid (and 2 of which compulsory). Dad will be eligible for up to two weeks of Ordinary Paternal leave.
And of course…
Some employers offer Parental benefits (such as salary payments) in addition to your statutory benefits. Speak to your company’s HR department to find out what applies to you.