If you’ve just found out you are expecting a “happy event” and your baby is due after April 4, 2015, you will be among the first working couples in the UK to be able to benefit from a new system of shared parental leave. This is part of an initiative to make the labour market “more flexible, efficient and fair”.
What it means for career-oriented couples in the family way is that dad will have no excuse for shirking the initial childcare duties.
The rules also apply to couples adopting a child, like the current maternity leave and pay regulations.
Working mums will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay, as at present. The difference will be that the child’s father (or mum's partner) will be able to take their turn, and – by mutual agreement – step into the breach if mum wants to end her maternity leave early. It's up to the parents or adopters to decide who should take a portion of the leave period available, and when.
The regulations actually come into force on December 1, 2014, so you can start planning now how you are going to share the care of your expected infant. You just need to let your employer know by January 2015 if you want to take advantage of the new regulations.
There are certain criteria to meet to be able to take shared parental leave, the most important one being the “continuity of employment test”. This requires that the parent (either one) must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the baby’s anticipated arrival date, and must have earned more than £30 a week during 13 of those 66 weeks.
Like most government regulations it all sounds very complicated, but this move does grant parents more rights and more help when embarking on the path of juggling career and family.
You can find out more about shared parental leave on the government website, GOV.UK. Don't delay – plan today, and consult your employer as soon as possible.