CHILDREN AND FAMILIES ACT 2014
New legislation relating to Shared Parental Care and Flexible working
SHARED PARENTAL LEAVE
The Children and Families Act 2014
The Act gives parents more choice as to how they share the care of their child during the first year, allowing both parents to maintain a strong link with the workplace. It introduces provisions for shared parental leave, statutory shared parental pay and other statutory rights.
The Shared Parental Leave Regulations apply to babies whose expected week of childbirth (EWC) is on or after 5 April 2015, and to children matched with a person or placed for adoption on or after the same date.
The total amount of shared parental leave available is 52 weeks less (where there is a leave curtailment date) the number of weeks of SML taken before that date, or less the number of weeks’ leave taken before she returns to work. If the mother is not entitled to SML, but does get SMP, the total number of weeks available is 52 weeks less the number of weeks for which SMP is payable.
In order to qualify an employee must have 26 weeks’ continuous employment with the same employer. In addition the partner must have worked for at least 26 weeks out of the 66 weeks preceding the EWC or adoption matching date and earned at least £30 gross per week for any 13 of the 66 weeks.
Similar provisions are made for shared parental leave where a couple is adopting a child.
KIT – Keep in Touch wth the Workplace
The Act increases the number of days women are entitled to work to keep in touch with the workplace (KIT) to 30 during the period of shared parental leave.
How the Parental Leave can be Taken
Under the new Regulations, after the mother has taken the two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave immediately following the birth, the remaining period of 50 weeks can be taken however the parents choose. For example both parents could take the first two weeks off (as compulsory maternity leave and ordinary paternity leave) and then have a period of shared parental leave together. One could then go back to work and then later return to the caring role swapping roles with their partner (subject to the agreement of the employer).
Ordinary paternity leave of 2 weeks can still be taken in conjunction with shared parental leave.
Shared Parental Pay
The total period of paid leave is 39 weeks.
To qualify for shared parental pay, an employee must have earned an average weekly salary of at least the lower earnings limit (£109 in the tax year 2013-14) for 8 weeks before the EWC/adoption placement date.
The first 6 weeks are paid at 90% of the mother’s average gross weekly earnings. The remaining weeks are paid at the flat statutory rate – £138.18 or 90% of the average gross weekly earnings, whichever is the higher figure.
Ante – Natal Appointments
The Act states that an employee with a ‘qualifying relationship’ with a pregnant woman or her expected child is entitled to time off to attend 2 ante-natal appointments , with the maximum time allowed for each being 6 and a half hours.
A person with a qualifying relationship is the husband or civil partner or someone living with the pregnant woman ‘in an enduring family relationship’ but are not a relative, or they are the father of the child. He could also be the parent under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 or a potential applicant for a parental order under the Act.
If an employer refuses to allow time off for ante-natal appointments the employee has the right to complain to an employment tribunal.
Ante – Adoptors
The Act allows for people who are going to adopt a child to have time off work to meet that child and also have time off to go to meetings about the adoption. These are for meetings or visits arranged by a social worker.
One of the parents adopting can take paid time off work 5 times, the other parent can take unpaid time off work twice.
EXCEPTIONAL PARENTAL LEAVE
If you are an employee and have caring responsibilities for elderly relatives, children or other dependents, you are entitled to time off for dependents to deal with unforeseen circumstances.
If you have worked for an employer for a year, you are entitled to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave for each child born or adopted. The leave can be taken up to the child’s fifth birthday. If the child has disabilities the period is extended to the child’s eighteenth birthday. The leave should be taken in blocks of weeks not as individual days off unless the child is disabled or the employer gives his or her consent. You cannot take more than 4 weeks off a year. You need to make a request to your employer 21 days from the start date of the parental leave. Your employer may as for the request in writing.
If you change jobs you can carry over any untaken parental leave, but you cannot take it until you have worked for your new employer for a year.
The Children and Families Act 2014
The Act made important changes to flexible working. It extended the right to request flexible working to all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service from 30 June 2014.
The Act gives qualifying employees the right to apply to his/her employer for a change in their terms and conditions of employment if the change relates to the hours worked, where they are required to work, the times they are required to work and other aspects of their terms and conditions as laid down in the Act.
It puts a duty on employers to consider requests in a ‘reasonable manner’.
The employee’s request must be in writing and include the date, the changes to the working conditions which are being applied for, the impact that the change may have on the employer and how this could be mitigated, when the employee would like the changes to start, and a statement that it is a statutory request and if and when a previous flexible working application has been made.
The employer is required to inform the employee of their decision on the request within the ‘decision period’ which is 3 months beginning with the date on which the request was made or a longer period if that has been agreed between the employer and the employee. The decision should be given in writing.
The employer must consider all applications, and think about the benefits and any possible adverse effects on the business of the proposal. He/she can turn down the request if one or more of the business grounds detailed in the Act can be proved. These grounds include the burden of additional costs, an adverse effect on the ability of the business to meet customer demand, the impossibility of reorganising the work among the existing employees, the inability to recruit extra staff, an adverse effect on quality or performance, the lack of work available during the periods the employee wishes to work and planned structural changes.
If an employee fails to attend two consecutive meetings to discuss the application or an appeal, without a good reason, the employer can assume that the request has been withdrawn.