• Posted

Businesses will probably know whether it has any female employees who are pregnant and due to take maternity leave during the next six months. How many, however, will know which of its employees have partners who are pregnant?

If an employee has a partner who is expected to give birth in the week following Sunday 5 April 2015 or later, he (or she) may be eligible to request parental leave (and even ‘parental pay’) to care for that child. It follows that the new parental leave rules, which do not come into force until December 2014, will impact upon some couples who already have a pregnancy in progress.

A partner (which includes unmarried partners) will need to give no less than eight weeks prior notice to take parental leave, and so the first of these leave requests could be seen in early February 2015. The information which must be contained in this notice includes the identity of the mother and the dates of parental leave and pay taken or to be taken by the mother.

All but two weeks of the current 52 weeks leave will be capable of being shared, and the leave can be shared concurrently or consecutively i.e. the mother could take 27 weeks leave, with the partner then taking 25 weeks, or the partner could take their 25 weeks at the same time as the mother’s leave.

An employer must accept a leave request if it is for one continuous period, provided all other eligibility and notice requirements have been met. More complex counter-notice provisions apply to requests for discontinuous periods.

Additional paternity leave has been available for some time and the take up has been limited. It remains to be seen whether shared leave is more widely utilised by partners. In theory at least, where the mother is the higher earner, there will be a clear economic imperative for passing a proportion of paid leave to the lower paid partner. This does, however, present increased logistical difficulties for smaller employers in particular, who currently struggle to cope with existing maternity leave requirements.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.