Parents will gain greater flexibility in how they share the care of their child in the first year after birth as new regulations regarding Shared Parental Leave (SPL) came into force 1 December 2014.
The new rules, which apply to couples with babies due or children matched or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015, will allow parents to choose whether they want to share the mother’s maternity leave.
There are expected to be as many as 285,000 working couples that will be eligible to share leave from April 2015. The changes in how maternity leave can be used will kick start a culture change in workplaces where fathers feel more confident in taking time off for childcare.
Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said:
The new Shared Parental Leave rules will give real choice to parents. We all know that every family has its own unique set of circumstances, and Shared Parental Leave reflects that reality.
Up until now, families have had very limited options when it comes to juggling the demands of work with the arrival of a new baby. The old maternity leave system reinforced the archaic assumptions that the bulk of childcare responsibilities should be done by mums, and failed to recognise the vitally important role that dads and partners have to play.
Mothers and adopters will be able to choose when they return to work and fathers and partners will be able to spend more time bonding with their children during the precious early stages of their development.
Under the new rules, mums will still take at least 2 weeks of maternity leave immediately after birth, but after that working couples have the opportunity to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.
The increased flexibility that Shared Parental Leave will create will be good for families, good for business and good for the economy. Businesses already recognise that employees are more productive and motivated when given the opportunity to work flexibly, and Shared Parental Leave will help employers to retain committed and knowledgeable staff.
Shared Parental Leave is just one strand of a wider programme of measures that the government has introduced to create a modern work environment and provide greater opportunities for parents and families – including the right to request flexible working and increased access to childcare and school meals.