New rules come into force this week regarding how parents get to share leave to care for their babies.
The rules mean parents expecting a baby or adopting after April 5th can fully share time off during the first year of parenthood.
New parents are entitled to up to 50 weeks worth of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.
Heather Grant, employment lawyer at Maxwell Hodge said: “Shared parental leave is a huge change to employment law and how workplaces will operate. The rules mean that couples who are adopting or expecting a baby can not only share up to 50 weeks of leave, but they can start and stop that leave, returning to work between leave periods, without forfeiting their entitlement.
The government expects more than 285,000 of couples will be eligible for the shared leave in 2015. As a result this should cause a cultural change where fathers feel happier to take leave in favour of caring for their families.
Grant emphasised that shared leave is “an additional option for parents and adopters as the current systems of maternity, paternity, adoption and unpaid parental leave will still remain in force.
“Mothers will still have to take their two week compulsory maternity leave and fathers still have two weeks’ statutory paternity leave that they can take immediately, but then the balance of the maternity leave period, 50 weeks, can be curtailed and swapped over.
“There are limits on an employer’s ability to refuse an application for shared parental leave and the rules as to eligibility depend on which parent is applying for the leave.
“All in all there is a lot for employers to get to grips with and businesses would be wise to look at the matter sooner rather than later.”