The government last week announced that it would go ahead with proposals put forward in an earlier consultation to introduce shared parental leave.

Under this system, working mothers will still have the right to 52 weeks of maternity leave, but can opt to share up to 50 weeks of the leave with their partner if they both meet the qualifying conditions. They may take the leave in turns or take it together, provided that they take no more than 52 weeks in total.

Fathers and other eligible employees will also gain the right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments.

Adopters who meet the qualifying criteria will be able to take flexible parental leave, as will parents of children born through surrogacy. They will also be eligible for unpaid time off to attend two antenatal appointments.

The proposals, which are included in the Children and Families Bill 2013 currently going through Parliament, include the following:

  • mothers who give binding notice to opt into shared parental leave prior to giving birth will have the right to revoke the notice up to six weeks following the birth
  • employees must give a non-binding indication of when they expect to take their allocated leave when they initially notify their employers of their intention to take shared parental leave and give at least eight weeks’ notice of any leave they will be taking
  • parents will be subject to a limit on the number of times they can notify their employer that they intend to take a period of shared parental leave (the original notification and two further notifications or changes), although employers and employees can agree to make changes that will not count towards the cap
  • each parent can have up to 20 “Keeping in Touch” days while on shared parental leave, in addition to the 10 days available to a woman on maternity leave
  • employees will maintain the right to return to the same job after any period of leave that includes maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave that totals 26 weeks or less in aggregate, even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks. Any subsequent leave will attract the right to return to the same job, or if that is not reasonably practicable, a similar job
  • aligning the notice periods for leave and pay for a parent taking paternity leave at the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth or as soon as reasonably practicable.

The government intends to implement the new system by 2015 and will publish the regulations in draft before the Bill receives Royal Assent.

Neil Todd from Thompsons Solicitors said: “These reforms are welcome insofar as they enable parents to share leave in the first 12 months following childbirth. However the fact that the reforms are not underpinned by a more generous statutory pay scheme while this leave is being taken still leaves us far behind the majority of our European Counterparts in terms of having truly progressive legislation in this area”.

To read the consultation response, go to: