Shared parental leave new rules: How does it work – and how will it affect new parents and businesses

Leave does not have to be taken in a continuous block

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The Independent Online

Parents can now share paternity leave, as regulations become active today.

If a baby is due, or a child is placed for adoption on or after today, parents will be entitled to share 52 weeks of paternity leave and 39 weeks of pay.

The regulations were pushed for by the Liberal Democrats and came into force on 1 December 2014.

Around 285,000 working couples will be eligible for shared leave, according to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

Read more: Few can afford to share parental leave

How does it work?

Parents will be able to share a 50-week pot of leave (as the mother is obliged to take the first two weeks of the entitlement) starting when the child is born or date of adoption.

Both parents can be off work at the same time or can take turns to take time off to look after the child.

The leave can also be taken in discontinuous blocks and each parent can submit three separate notices to book this; however, a request for discontinuous leave can be refused by an employer, whilst a request for continuous leave cannot, and the time-off must be agreed with the employer at least eight weeks before it begins.

Statutory shared parental pay is 90% of your average weekly earnings, or £139.58 a week, whichever is lower.

Women will still have access to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of pay if they want it, whilst two weeks of paid Paternity Leave will still be available but Additional Paternity Leave entitlement no longer exists.

A couple shop together with their small baby

Who is eligible?

To qualify for Statutory Shared Parental Pay one parent must be an employee and must pass the continuity of employment test (they must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which the child arrives), whilst the other must meet the employment and earnings test (must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 week in 13 of those weeks).

Is this bad for business?

The Institute of Directors has previously described the plan as a "nightmare" that would "heap yet more burdens on struggling employers".

Deputy Director of Policy, Alexander Ehmann said: "The proposed system is considerably more complex and unwieldy than the current laws and employers will - once again - have to absorb the cost of adapting and implementing this new system."

However, the main focus has been on small businesses - with many concerned about the changes.

According to manufacturing and engineering business group, EEF, 40% of HR professionals see the legislation as a "key challenge" for their firms.

"Shared parental leave is a positive step forward, but as with anything new and unknown it's not without its challenges," said EEF legal compliance expert, Lucy Atherton.

Conciliation service Acas, has drawn up a guide to the rules.