As we have previously reported, Shared Parental Leave became available for parents of babies born on or after 5 April 2015 (or where babies or children were placed for adoption on or after that date).
So far there is little official information regarding the number of people who have chosen to take Shared Parental Leave, although anecdotally the take up certainly seems to have been much lower than the Government had anticipated. It will of course take time for the new rights to become established, but as we explained at our workshop sessions on Shared Parental Leave earlier this year, one of the reasons for the low take up may be the complex eligibility and notification requirements, as well as the financial issues around taking Shared Parental Leave.
It was recently announced by George Osborne that the Government intends to extend Shared Parental leave to allow the leave to be shared with one nominated (working) grandparent, as well as between partners, by 2018. Presumably the grandparent would need to meet similar eligibility criteria to those currently applicable for partners.
Whilst the intention behind the Shared Parental Leave regulations was to encourage parents to share child care responsibilities, this latest announcement has caused some to raise concerns that dads in particular might be discouraged from taking time off, particularly given that George Osborne said in his announcement that over half of all new mothers rely on grandparents for childcare when they return to work. Single parents will potentially benefit as the new plans will enable them to share their leave where previously they could not.
There is of course an important distinction between the new proposals and the idea of ‘grandparent leave’ that has been previously talked about (and which we covered in our article here) – the new leave only gives grandparents a share of the 50 weeks’ leave available for sharing after a birth or adoption, and does not give any rights beyond that time. Working grandparents do of course still have the ability to make a flexible working request to enable them to help with caring for their grandchildren if they wish, and employers should deal with any such requests reasonably. We anticipate that flexible working requests will continue to be the main way that working grandparents deal with taking time off to be with their grandchildren, but it will be interesting to see how extending Shared Parental Leave to grandparents will work in practice. We will of course keep you informed of any future developments!
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).
Please note that this update is not intended to be exhaustive or be a substitute for legal advice. The application of the law in this area will often depend upon the specific facts and you are advised to seek specific advice on any given scenario.