One in six small businesses concerned about the impact of shared parental leave

By Anita Jaynes on April 7, 2015

One in six small business owners are concerned about the impact of new rules regarding Shared Parental Leave (SPL) which came into effect on 5th April 2015.

Over a quarter (27 per cent) say they are aware of the new rules but unsure about how they will handle it, while only half are both aware of the implications of the new legislation and unconcerned about the impact it will have.

Those are the findings of a survey by the HR Dept, which has a network of licensees operating across the UK. In Swindon and North Wiltshire, the company is run by Peter Jones.

The company’s survey of almost 400 small businesses has shown that only 51 per cent are both aware of the implications of the new legislation and unconcerned about the impact it will have.

Over a quarter (27 per cent) say they are aware of the new rules but unsure about how they will handle it, while 17 per cent are concerned about the negative impact SPL will have.

The SPL regulations that come into effect on 5th April this year mean that anyone who is due to give birth or adopt after Easter Sunday is entitled to split their leave with their partner.

Under the rules, after an initial two weeks of compulsory leave by the mother or adopter, up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared, as long as employers agree. Factory workers are subject to four weeks compulsory leave and therefore 48 weeks of leave and 35 weeks of pay can be shared. Parents can divide the time between them however they like and can also take time off at the same time as each other.

Feedback on the issue has been gathered as part of the HR Dept’s annual customer survey and 380 responses have already been collected.

Comments on the issue range show that the main concerns are from the smallest companies, where the temporary loss of key skills could have a significant impact.

Some respondents said the new rules would affect their recruitment policies, with one saying they would “move towards employing older people”.

Peter Jones, Director at the HR Dept in Swindon and North Wiltshire, said the new rules were good in principle but that businesses and employees needed to establish clarity over eligibility.

He said: “It is worth making the point that this is such complicated legislation that, despite our communications with them, only 51 per cent of our clients are aware and unconcerned. The true figure across the SME community is likely to be much lower.

“The difficulty comes when we start looking at people’s eligibility, because there are certain qualifying rules, such as length of service, employment status and earnings. All employers need to develop a clearly worded policy.

“Much of the administrative burden will actually fall on the employees: requesting leave within required timescales and co-ordinating between employers. Employers will be entitled to see the birth certificate and details of the partner’s employer and NI Number.

“Communication between businesses and their employees and workplace planning will be key, as potentially anyone in an organisation could be off for up to 50 weeks and employers will have to prepare for that.”

The HR Dept is a national outsourced human resources company with its head office in Winterbourne, just north of Bristol, covering over 70 territories which are independently run by HR professionals all over the UK and Ireland.

Please find up-to-the-minute results of the survey, as well as comments from respondents, here.