Employers are urged to change their employment policies in order to reflect the new changes to parental leave being introduced later this year.
The legislative changes to introduce shared parental leave are currently before parliament and are due to come into force as of 1 December 2014.
Parents, partners and adopters will be able to share parental leave once their child has been born or placed with them. They must meet the eligibility to be able to apply for shared parental leave and the baby must be born, or placed with the adoptive parents, on or after 5 April 2015.
Employers could start to have applications from their staff to take shared parental leave as soon as January 2015.
Claire Bell, director and head of employment law at independent law firm Actons Solicitors, said: "It's crucial that all employers act now to update employment policies in their organisations to take account of these changes.
"While most employers are aware that shared paternity leave comes into force from April 2015, they need to have a policy in place now to cover those parents expecting babies in nine months' time."
The purpose of the law change is to give parents more flexibility when a baby is born. Parents can take leave at the same time or take it in turns to take time off work.
Shared parental leave can be taken at any time within the period which begins on the date the child is born or date the adopted child is placed and ends 52 weeks after that date. The leave must be taken in complete weeks and may be taken either in a continuous period, which an employer cannot refuse or in a discontinuous period, which the employer can refuse.
Until 4 April 2015 fathers may get additional paternity leave and pay instead.
Firstly,to qualify for shared parental leave and pay the mother has to be entitled to one of the following:
Plus the mother must share the main responsibility for caring for the child with the child's father or her partner.
Secondly, a parent wanting to take shared parental leave 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 is due (or at the week in which an adopter was notified of having been matched with a child or adoption) and is still employed in the first week that shared parental leave is to be taken.
The other parent must have worked for 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 the 66 weeks.
To qualify for shared parental pay the parent must - as well as being eligible in Step 2 - also have earned an average salary of the lower earnings limit or more (currently £111) for the eight weeks' prior to the 15th week before the expected week of birth.
Published on: August 27, 2014