Last updated: November 30, 2021
Shared Parental Leave
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) is designed to give parents more flexibility if they are:
- Having a baby.
- Using a surrogate to have a baby.
- Adopting a child.
How does Shared Parental Leave (SPL) work?
Parents can share a pot of leave and decide to be off work at the same time and/or take it in turns to have periods of leave to look after their child. They can share the caring responsibilities evenly or have one parent taking the main caring role as they choose to do. Unlike Maternity/Adoption Leave, eligible employees can stop and start their SPL and return to work between periods of leave. Each eligible parent can apply for three separate periods of leave.
- The detail of SPL is set out in the Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014. Parents have the right to take SPL and employers have a duty to ensure that their employees are not penalised for using their entitlement or put under pressure to cancel/change a leave notification.
- Eligible mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave and up to 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay. The primary adopter is eligible for the same.
- If they choose to do so, an eligible mother can end their maternity leave early and, with their partner or the child’s other parent, opt for SPL instead of maternity leave. The amount of leave available is calculated using the mother’s entitlement to maternity/adoption leave. They can reduce their maternity/adoption leave entitlement and they and/or their partner may opt into the SPL system and take any remaining weeks as SPL. So a partner could begin to take SPL while the mother is still on maternity/adoption leave.
- Adopters will have the same rights to SPL and pay.
- Intended parents in surrogacy who meet certain criteria will be eligible for statutory adoption leave and pay as well as SPL and pay.
Am I eligible for SPL?
To qualify for SPL a mother must:
- Have a partner.
- Be entitled to either maternity/adoption leave or to Statutory Maternity/Adoption Pay or Maternity Allowance.
- Have reduced, or given notice to reduce, their maternity/adoption leave, or their pay.
A parent intending to take SPL must:
- Be an employee.
- Share the primary responsibility for the child with the other parent at the time of the birth or placement for adoption.
- Have properly notified their employer of their entitlement and have provided the necessary declarations and evidence.
In addition, each parent will need to satisfy a continuity of employment test and an ‘employment and earnings test’.
Step 1: Continuity test
Eligibility for the SPL system for one parent/carer is dependent on the other parent’s/carer’s employment situation. The person must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the child’s expected due date/matching date and still be working for the employer at the start of each leave period.
Step 2: Employment and earnings
In the 66 weeks leading up to the baby’s expected due date/matching date, the person must have worked for at least 26 weeks and earned an average of at least £30 (as of April 2021) a week in any 13 weeks.
What is Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)?
A mother is entitled to statutory maternity pay/adoption pay/maternity allowance for up to 39 weeks. If she gives notice to reduce her entitlement before she will have received it for 39 weeks, then any remaining weeks could become available as ShPP. If both parents qualify for ShPP they must decide who will receive it, or how it will be divided, and they must each inform their employer of their entitlement.
Blocks of leave
Each notice to book SPL (see notification of Shared Parental Leave section below) can be for either a ‘continuous’ block or multiple ‘discontinuous’ blocks. A continuous block means an unbroken period of leave. Eligible employees have a statutory right to take SPL in this way and an employer cannot refuse it.
A discontinuous block is leave over a period, with breaks between the leave where the employee returns to work. Discontinuous leave, in a single notice, can only be taken with the employer’s agreement. Once a request for discontinuous leave is made, the employee and employer have a discussion period of 14 calendar days to talk about the request. If a request for a discontinuous leave block is not agreed then the total amount of leave in the request must be taken as one continuous block.
Notification of Shared Parental Leave
When opting for SPL you must notify the employer of their entitlement to SPL and must book the leave you wish to take, giving your employer at least eight weeks’ notice. The notification to take SPL must include specified information, which is:
- How much leave is available.
- How much leave you are entitled to take.
- How much leave you are is intending to take.
- How you expect to take it.
If you intend to claim ShPP, you must give your employer notice, which must include:
- How much ShPP both parents are entitled to take.
- How much ShPP each parent intends to take.
- When you expect to take ShPP.
- A declaration from your partner confirming their agreement to the arrangement.
This information about ShPP can be included in the notice to take SPL.
The employer’s response
Depending on the circumstances, there are four outcomes once the employer has received, considered, and discussed an SPL notification.
- A continuous leave notification must be accepted unconditionally.
- Whilstyou are under no obligation to modify a continuous leave notification and should not be pressured to do so, an employer may seek an agreed modification to a continuous leave request.
- A discontinuous leave notification can be refused.
- Whilst it is not good practice and should be avoided, it is possible for an employer to not respond to a leave notification.
Right to return to the same job
You have the right to return to the same or similar job if you return from any period of leave (including maternity, paternity, adoption and SPL) that totals 26 weeks or less, even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks. For any subsequent leave there is the right to return to the same job or, if that is not reasonably practicable, a similar job.
Shared Parental Leave in Touch days
Parents can both work up to 20 days during SPL. These are called ‘Shared Parental Leave In Touch’ (or SPLIT) days. These days are in addition to the 10 ‘Keeping in touch’ days already available to those on maternity or adoption leave. All in touch days are optional; both employee and employer must agree to them.
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