Sharing Baby

Laura Pointon, Legal Director, offers practical steps for recruitment businesses for Shared Parental Leave.

Many recruitment companies are fully aware of the changes to how parents get to share leave to care for their children. The rules apply to employees who expect to be parents on or after 5 April 2015. However, what has your company actually done about these new rules? Moreover, will these new rules mean more business for recruiters as employers seek to find staff to cover absent parents?

Do companies need to be concerned?

Over the years of advising clients on family friendly rights covering maternity and paternity leave, I have been amazed at the lack of uptake from fathers with regards to their paternity leave entitlement. I have therefore asked myself the question as to whether the new rules will have the impact the government and some companies expect, together with how this will affect the day to day running of companies – if at all.

That said, even if the uptake is a smaller proportion than what is expected, the changes in this area will not necessarily be easy for companies to administer without a clear understanding of the potential impact. Employees can make applications to share their parental leave in a certain way and have the flexibility to change their mind about how they want to share the leave. How are companies going to deal with these new rules?

Below are some practical suggestions for companies to consider and implement:

1: What policies, if any, does the company have in place at present?

A company must consider its current position. Does the company have any ‘family friendly policies’ in place? If not, the company should ensure it implements family friendly policies that are bespoke to its industry. The policies should be fair and consistent and as a minimum meet the statutory requirements in place. With regards to the Shared Parental Leave Policy it needs to inform the workforce of the eligibility and notification requirements. All employees need to be aware of all the information they need to have to request to take SPL.

2: If the company has polices in place, review them to ensure they are legally compliant and cover the new rules.

Are the maternity, paternity and adoption leave policies up to date with the current legal requirements? Careful attention also needs to be given to whether any of the policies provide enhanced rights above the statutory minimums. If the company operates an enhanced Maternity Pay scheme, will the company operate a Shared Paternity Leave scheme in the same or similar way? Companies have to be careful, as any differences in enhanced schemes could expose the company to claims of discrimination.

3: Communication of the polices and/or any changes to polices to the workforce.

It is imperative any policies are clearly communicated to the workforce so they understand the rules and processes and how they could affect them personally. Many companies have a standard employee handbook which covers family friendly policies. However, one of the biggest issues companies face is employees do not read and/or understand the policies.

Employment tribunals are sometimes reluctant to rely on policies which although have been issued to workers, have changed. Employees who are not clear on the policies in place will not follow them due to their lack of understanding.

4: Who is responsible for overseeing this area?

A company needs to clearly identify who will be responsible within the organisation to operationally oversee this area. The HR department or managers will be who staff go to if they have any queries. Training is imperative for those staff to ensure they are confident with dealing with enquiries.

As the time off for SPL can change with notice, consideration will be needed to assess the operational impact absences of this nature will have on the business and how these operational issues can be resolved.

5: Informal discussion.

A worker does not have to notify a company of their intentions with regards to SPL until a minimum of eight weeks before they intend their leave to start.
In order for a company to try to manage absences effectively, it would be useful for the company to hold an informal discussion with the employee to talk about their preferences as soon as possible so the company can work with the employee from an early position to manage their expectations.

For further information or if you have any issues you would like to discuss, speak to Laura at Cinch Legal on: 01925 594495 or email: LauraP@thecinchgroup.com. I can work with your company through a step by step process, ensuring your business is fully protected.

sharing-baby-shot This article was first published in The April Edition of the Global Recruiter Magazine – View a PDF of the article here >