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New Shared Parental Leave rules trigger mixed responses

Businesses have given a mixed response to the new Shared Parental Leave rights, which apply to the parents of babies due or adopted on or after 5 April 2015.

Under the regulations, eligible new parents are able to choose how to share a ‘pot’ of time off work in order to look after their children, whether they opt to take time off together, or to take turns to have ‘blocks’ of leave over a total 52 week period.

Employed mothers remain entitled to take 52 weeks of Maternity Leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay. However, under the new rules a mother can opt to end her maternity leave early and, with her partner or the child’s father, opt for Shared Parental Leave. This can be taken at any time following the initial two weeks of compulsory maternity leave (four weeks in the case of manual workers) within the period beginning on the date the child is born (or placed for adoption), and ends 52 weeks after that date.

Commenting on the regulations, Business Minister Jo Swinson said: ‘The new system is good for business as it will create a more motivated and flexible, talented workforce. Employers will be able to attract and retain women and prevent them from dropping out of the world of work once they start a family. Flexible working will also help widen the pool of talent in the labour market, helping to drive growth’.

However, the complexity of the legislation has been criticised by some, with business representatives suggesting while they may benefit some parents, the measures are likely to impose a considerable administrative burden on employers.