From 5th April 2015 employees will be entitled to Shared Parental Leave meaning for example a mother could end her maternity leave after 12 weeks, leaving 40 weeks (of the total 52 week entitlement) available for SPL.
If both parents are eligible they can share the remaining 40 weeks. They could take the leave at the same time or separately. The important thing for businesses is to understand the ins and outs of the entitlement so they can be prepared to deal with the requests when they arise and not leave themselves open to any discrimination claims.
The best thing for businesses to do is to be as prepared as possible. Although the SPL starts on 5th April, the law actually changed on 1st December 2014 meaning employees can start requesting leave now. You need to make sure your HR department is ready to deal with these requests.
You will need to update your maternity leave policy making sure the new procedures and entitlements are clearly set out. It is also worth considering training for your staff as the regulations and eligibility regulations are quite complex. Making sure they are acquainted with the things that are changing and the things that are staying the same means any requests that are made can be discussed fully in plenty of time. It will also help for employees to be able to discuss with your HR and feel more comfortable with what they need to do.
If you need help writing your policies or need any further information give us a call.
You can also look at the acas Shared Parental Leave: a good practice guide for employers and employees here http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/r/q/Shared-Parental-Leave-a-good-practice-guide-for-employers-and-employees.pdf