A few weeks ago I blogged about not getting so caught up in the introduction of Shared Parental Leave that you forget other things.
Historically, those involved in a surrogacy situation were left in an unsatisfactory position in that the woman who bore the child and gave birth would qualify for maternity leave but the parents who were going to become the active parents of the child would qualify for neither maternity leave or paternity leave, given that ordinary paternity leave needs to be taken within 56 days of the birth and it can take some time for parents to apply and obtain Parental Responsibility Orders through the courts. Some new regulations that have come into force on 25th November 2014 and 1st December 2014 have sought to improve the position. If the parent is a ‘Parental Order parent’ which is somebody who, on the day of the child’s birth, intends to apply for a Parental Order under Section 54 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, they will now qualify for paternity leave and shared parental leave, and potentially adoption leave, with one parent taking the adoption leave route and the second taking paternity leave with, going forward, both of those parents entitled to curtail either of those and move to shared parental leave if the child is born in April 2015 onwards.
The second change relates to unpaid parental leave which now, rather unhelpfully, is apt to confuse people with shared parental leave which is paid. Previously, the regime (which derives from European law) has extended to parents of children under the age of 5 only. From 5th April 2015 parents who have children between 5 and 18 will be able to take this unpaid leave, although clearly this is something that happens relatively rarely, given the pay implications. Make sure you update your relevant policy.
Historically, the adoption leave position has worked against those who are fostering a child prior to adopting them. Amendments have now been made and from 5th April 2015 the rights given to those adopting will extend to individuals fostering a child under the ‘Fostering For Adoption’ scheme.
The shared parental leave regime has also been tweaked to include those who are adopting a child from outside of the UK. This has resulted in some consequential amendments to the legislation that had already been published.
By my counting, that’s 8 pieces of secondary legislation, some of which has been amending very recently enacted legislation. Given the size and breadth of this area and the potential for confusion, surely it’s time that we had a similar exercise to the one that took place a few years ago in relation to equalities legislation where everything is brought together under one piece of legislation, making it much clearer for those who have to work with it – and that’s both you and us lawyers!
Given the complexity of this area and the frequency with which the law change I now recommend that all family friendly policies are kept in a different mini handbook away from the main staff handbook to prevent constant reissuing of the Handbook. If anyone would like to purchase an up to date family friendly suite of policies email me for special rates which will apply until January 31st 2015.