No need to get bogged down in the tortuous regulations laid down to cover every combination and permutation of the new shared parental leave – or to fathom out its relationship to the already complex maternity leave rules.
Several recent surveys have shown that although most employers are aware of the change, a significant minority are unprepared for it.
It doesn’t matter! Just-in-time is fine. As the employer, you don’t need to take responsibility for advising employees how the rules work or whether someone is eligible. Requests aren’t likely to be very frequent (estimates are between 2 and 8% of the workforce a year) and it would be a herculean task to master the ins and outs – in between running the business!
Refer anyone enquiring about it to the free online advice on the government’s website https://www.gov.uk/pay-leave-for-parents. To check if they’re eligible, your employee should use the pay and leave calculator. If they’re applying, they should download the forms, complete them and give them to you as “Notice of entitlement and intention to take SPL”.
You are not responsible for checking anything about the leave being shared with your employee’s partner, the onus is entirely on the employee to declare the arrangements on the forms.
This written application for shared parental leave needs to be with you 8 weeks beforehand. It may seem bureaucratic but stick to it consistently: it will give time to organise temporary cover for the employee's work, which may be needed for 50 weeks. In practice pay – or lack of it - is still likely to discourage this much leave being taken: it stops at 37 weeks.
Your company will need a process for confirming arrangements to the employee and implementing the changes to pay. You don’t have to create it: there is plenty of advice with standard letters in the guide for employers on the government’s website. https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay-employer-guide
Keep the forms completed by the employee showing they’re eligible for Shared Parental Pay, and records of the dates and amounts of Shared Parental Leave Pay. You can then reclaim 92% of the payments via HMRC, or if your business qualifies for Small Employers’ Relief, you can reclaim 103%. Shared parental leave pay is £139.58 a week or 90% of an employee's average weekly earnings, whichever is lower, for 37 weeks.