U.K.: Shared Parental Leave Introduced

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By Rick Vollmar

Dec. 1—New shared parental leave regulations become effective today, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills reminded employers in a press release.

Under the new rules, couples with babies due or children matched or placed for adoption on or after April 5, 2015, will be allowed to share the mother’s maternity leave. Following two weeks of mandatory maternity leave, the new rules allow working couples to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.

BIS estimates that as many as 285,000 working couples will be eligible to share leave beginning in April 2015 and that the changes in how maternity leave can be used will encourage fathers to take time off for childcare.

The ‘Vitally Important Role' of Fathers

According to Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson, “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.”

Under the new rules, “mothers and adopters will be able to choose when they return to work,” Swinson continued, “and fathers and partners will be able to spend more time bonding with their children during the precious early stages of their development.”

Brendan Barber, chair of the U.K. Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, agreed.

“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,” Barber said. “Shared parental leave will enable working parents to share maternity or adoption leave to allow both parents greater involvement with their child’s first year whilst employers have the potential to remain productive by agreeing new arrangements that work for their organizations.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

The BIS press release is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-shared-parental-leave-regulations-come-into-effect, additional information on shared parental leave at https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/shared-parental-leave.

For more information on British HR law and regulation, see the U.K. primer.