Shared parental leave is a system in which a mother can hand over part of her maternity leave to a husband or partner so that he can spend more time caring for their child.
What's the situation now?
Under current rules, employed mothers are entitled to a maximum of 52 weeks maternity leave after giving birth and fathers get up to two weeks statutory paternity leave.
The rules were altered in 2011 to allow fathers and mothers to share some of the 52 weeks leave, with the father being allowed to take up to six months after the baby is 20 weeks old.
What will happen in the future?
Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave. However, working parents in England, Scotland and Wales will have much greater flexibility about how they ‘mix and match’ their leave. They may take it in turns or take it together, providing it does not exceed 52 weeks in total.
Mothers will have to take the first two weeks off work after the birth of their child as a recovery period. Women who are manual workers must take four weeks off. After that they will be free to return to work if they wish to and hand some or all of the remaining leave to their husband or partner.
For example, the mother could take the first eight months, with the father taking the remaining four months; or the mother could return to work for a period in the middle of the year with the father taking care of the child at that time; or the parents could choose to both stay at home together with the child, for up to six months.
Parents will be expected to give their employers 8 weeks' notice of their intention to take flexible parental leave.
Paternity leave is to remain at two weeks but will be reviewed in 2018.
An additional concession made to allay fears by some businesses means there will be a limit on the number of times a parent can notify an employer they want to take a period of shared parental leave. The number of notifications will be capped at 3 which includes the original notification and 2 further notifications or changes.
However, an employer and employee will be able to come to a private arrangement that does not count towards this cap.
The government says this change will reduce the uncertainty an employer may experience from an unlimited number of notifications while still maintaining an element of flexibility for the parent.
Any parent taking leave of 6 months or less will be legally entitled to return to their old job.
Each parent will have up to 20 days under shared parental leave to support them in returning to work in a scheme known as Keeping in Touch Days.
The proposals for shared parental leave and flexible working are included in the Children and Families Bill 2013 which is currently going through Parliament.
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