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Mark Higgins, Employment Law Partner

Employment partner Mark Higgins comments on HR Aspects’ ‘Look at the government’s changes to shared parental leave.’

In order to usher in a new era of dual responsibility and flexibility in childcare, the Government has confirmed its plans to institute a shared parental leave’s policy.

From April 2015, mothers and fathers will be able to use up to 50 weeks of shared parental leave between them, to be taken together or separately; leave can also be taken in blocks. The responsibilities to the employee are to ensure that adequate notice of 8 weeks as is given to an employer, along with an outline of how the leave they intend to take will play out so that the employer can make arrangements to arrange cover.

Additionally, employers must note that employees will have the right to return to their exact job if they don’t take more than the 26 weeks of leave overall; if they exceed this amount, they can expect to return to their job, or a similar position at worst. Looking at these changes, and others, we spoke with Employment Partner Mark Higgins: These amendments are ramping up the flexibility around parental responsibilities for the working family. More and more UK family units feature two working parents, and those praising the Government’s legislative approach have been at pains to point out that the new rulings will give both parents the ability to plan care for their child whilst retaining contact with the work place.

In terms of an impact in the legal sense, small businesses will undoubtedly need quality guidance through the new parental leave schemes. They will find it harder than larger outfits to cover absences and remain at full strength. The Institute of Directors continues to caution against these proposals precisely because of the potential problems they will cause for Britain’s SMEs, including the question of how an employer is expected to police an individual parental leave pattern which will usually involve another employer. Employers who are concerned about shared parental leave should seek advice from specialist employment lawyers or qualified HR consultants rather than attempting to guess their way through.