Shared parental leave in Northern Ireland

Marie Marin EFC From April 2015, the Northern Ireland Executive plans to introduce a new system of shared parental leave for parents.

Following in the footsteps of England and Wales, parents will be able to share 50 weeks’ leave between themselves after the birth of a child. The leave can be taken alternately or together.

Although the concept of shared parental leave is advantageous for families, the finer details of how the new system will be rolled out through employers will be the key to its success. The practicalities of taking the leave and how employers are to administer it for employees could potentially create difficulties; for example in co-ordinating leave between two different employers or in providing temporary cover for staff on shared parental leave. Many parents are also concerned about the potential negative effects that taking shared leave could have on their career prospects.

Employers will need to accommodate shared parental leave requests both to encourage the use of the leave and to enable employees to take the time off in a way which suits their new family circumstances.

In order to assist employers, the way that shared leave will be administered must be straightforward. The Department for Employment and Learning has committed to balance the concerns of employers with the needs of employees when implementing any proposed changes.

The Work and Families Bill 2014 which will instigate the changes is soon to be introduced to the Assembly. The Bill will also seek to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service.

CEO Marie Marin

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