Workplace experts Acas have published their new guide on shared parental leave (SPL), a new legal right which allows couples to share maternity or adoption leave and pay from 5 April 2015.

Couples finding out now that they are expecting a child will be among the first parents eligible to take advantage of these new rights.

Acas’ new free detailed guide on SPL will help prepare employers and employees for the new changes. It includes a step by step guide on how eligible employees can make an SPL request to their employer and advice for employers on how to deal with SPL requests fairly.

Acas Head of Guidance, Stewart Gee, said: “Our guide was produced with input from large and small employers, family groups and trade unions and is designed to ensure working parents and employers alike can understand the new shared parental leave arrangements.

“We advise employers and employees to start early with discussions to ensure that they can agree the sort of arrangements which work best for business and working families. We are also running training courses to help employers prepare for the legal changes.

The Government is introducing shared parental leave and pay for employed parents to make the current system for maternity and adoption leave much more flexible.

According to estimates from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), there are expected to be around 285,000 working couples who will be eligible to share their leave from April.

Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson said: “As the Minister responsible for modernising our working culture, I’m delighted that we’re introducing shared parental leave from next April which will let couples choose how to share time away from work to care for their new baby in a way that suits them best. Dads have a key role to play in the early weeks and months of a baby’s life and it is right that the arrangements for parental leave should reflect that.

“The Acas guide will be welcomed by both employers and employees as they prepare for the new system which will help working families and boost economic growth. Shared parental leave is not only good news for parents-to-be, but for employers who will benefit from having a workforce that is more flexible and motivated.”

Under the new system, a pregnant woman will continue to have access to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of pay as she does currently but from 5 April, working families will have the opportunity to share this leave.

Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families, said: “Shared parental leave is a significant opportunity for a new generation of parents and for their employers.

“It offers employers a way into an early conversation with their working fathers and gives parents the chance to start their family life together, simultaneously on leave.

“This guidance from Acas will help to start that conversation and provides clear, concise information for employers and employees.”

A key feature of Shared Parental Leave is that it can be taken in several blocks. Eligible parents will be able to make use of a mixture of weeks of work and leave in the first year of their child’s life, returning to work between periods of leave if they wish. A parent with a partner who adopts a child will have the same rights, as will intended parents in surrogacy.

Acas’ full guidance Shared Parental Leave: A good practice guide for employers and employees is available at:

In addition, Symposium Events are running a half day Shared Parental Leave seminar on the 13th November 2014, entitled, ‘Getting to grips with shared parental leave’. Click the link to book now.