Requests from employees for shared parental leave are expected to increase this year as the first anniversary of the new legislation approaches.
Research from the charity Working Families has revealed that seven out of 10 employers expect take-up to increase in the future as more people become aware of the option.
Two-thirds of employers plan to review their shared parental leave policy as the new provisions become more established this year.
Shared parental leave is optional and available to parents of babies born after 5 April 2015. It allows them to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay.
Parents must give up to eight weeks’ notice of their intention to take shared parental leave and employers must allow a request for continuous leave. They are not obliged to allow requests for discontinuous periods of time off work.
Lyndsey Crook, a solicitor in the employment law team at Langleys Solicitors, said: “Shared parental leave provides parents with more choice about caring for their newborn babies and returning to work. It also gives fathers the opportunity to take more time off work above the usual two weeks’ paternity leave.
“Given the anticipated rise in requests for shared parental leave, employers should have policies in place to be sure of how they will implement shared parental leave and pay.
“Employers who offer enhanced maternity pay may wish to consider extending this to shared parental leave, as there is a small risk of indirect discrimination claims if they choose not to do so, and they would be required to show that their policy is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, as fathers are put at a disadvantage.”
Emma Lawler, a partner in family law at Langleys, took shared parental leave following the birth of her son Noah.
She said: “Shared parental leave gave me and my partner Gareth more choice about staying at home to look after Noah, enabling us to share his care and giving me the option of an earlier return to work.”
The government intends to extend shared parental leave to working grandparents by 2018.