What Is Shared Parental Leave?

What is Shared Parental Leave? How does it work and who is eligible? Find out all you need to know here.

New dad cradles newborn on his shoulder


What is Shared Parental Leave? Shared parental leave (SPL) is the process where you can share the full joint entitlement of maternity and paternity leave, and pay, with your partner once your baby is born. Qualifying parents can share up to 50 weeks’ leave from two weeks after the birth of the child until the child’s first birthday.

Parents can alternate the time off or be off work at the same time and can each take up to three separate blocks of leave or use it up in one go. Periods of leave must be of a week’s duration or more.

Who is eligible for Shared Parental Leave (SPL)?

The following people are eligible:

  • A mother or father of a child with an expected week of childbirth (or placement for adoption) on or after 5 April 2015;
  • their husband, wife, civil partner or joint adopter;
  • the child’s other parent; and
  • their partner (if they live with the parent and the child).

If both parents want to take SPL and get Shared Parental Pay, they must:

  • have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date [ie from just before the pregnancy began]
  • stay with the same employer while they take SPL
  • be employees [ie not workers]
  • each earn on average at least £116 a week

If either is a ‘worker’, they can share ShPP but not SPL. If either earns less than £116 a week, they can share SPL but not ShPP.

If just the mother’s partner or just the mother wants to take SPL, they must:

  • have worked for the employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (or date on which they are matched with their adopted child);
  • still be employed by the employer while they take SPL; and
  • give the employer the correct notice (at least eight weeks before the period of leave is due to start), including a declaration that their partner meets the employment and income requirements which allow the employee to get SPL
  • earn on average at least £116 a week.
  • If the mother’s partner is a ‘worker’, they can get ShPP but not SPL. If the mother’s partner earns less than £116 a week, they can get SPL but not ShPP.

The other partner [the mother or mother’s partner] must:

  • have been working for at least 26 weeks (they do not need to be continuous) during the 66 weeks before the week the baby’s due
  • have earned at least £390 in total across any 13 of the 66 weeks.

How does Shared Parental Leave work?

A mother must take a minimum of two weeks’ maternity leave following the birth of the child (four weeks if they work in a factory).

If an employee is eligible for SPL and they or their partner end maternity or adoption leave and pay (or Maternity Allowance) early, then they can:

  • take the rest of the 52 weeks of leave (up to a maximum of 50 weeks) as Shared Parental Leave (SPL); and
  • take the rest of the 39 weeks of pay (up to a maximum of 37 weeks) as Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP).

Sometimes only one parent in a couple is eligible to get SPL and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). This means that they cannot share the leave between them.

Shared Parental Pay is paid at the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance or at 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings if this figure is lower than the rate set by the Government for the relevant tax year.

Starting Shared Parental Leave

In order for Shared Parental Leave (SPL) to start, the mother or adopter must do one of the following:

  • end their maternity or adoption leave by returning to work;
  • give the employer notice of the date on which they will end their maternity or adoption leave;
  • end maternity pay or maternity allowance.

The mother must give the employer at least eight weeks’ notice to end her maternity pay, or give the same notice to Jobcentre Plus to end her maternity allowance. Adopters must give employers notice to end adoption pay.

SPL can start for you while the mother or adopter is still on maternity or adoption leave, provided that she has given notice to end her maternity leave.

What you need to do as an employee

You must give the employer written notice of your entitlement to Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) (by means of a notice of entitlement and intention), including:

  • your partner’s name;
  • start and end dates for the period of maternity leave;
  • the total amount of SPL and ShPP available and how much you and your partner intend to take; and
  • the fact that you are sharing childcare responsibility with your partner.

Notice period

You must give your your employer your SPL request with at least eight weeks’ notice of any leave you wish to take. If the child is born more than eight weeks early, this notice period can be shorter.

Both you and your partner can give your employer up to three separate notices in order to ‘book’ the periods of leave you wish to take. Each notice can be for a block of leave, or the notice may be for a pattern of “discontinuous” leave involving different periods of leave.

If you ask for discontinuous blocks of leave in a notification your employer can refuse and require that the total weeks of leave in the notice to be taken in a single continuous block.

After receiving this notice, your employer can ask for:

  • a copy of the child’s birth certificate; and
  • the name and address of your partner’s employer.

Cancelling the decision to end maternity or adoption leave

The mother or adopter may be able to change their decision to end maternity or adoption leave early if both:

  • the planned end date has not passed; and
  • they have not already returned to work.

One of the following must also apply:

  • it is discovered during the eight-week notice period that neither partner is eligible for either SPL or ShPP;
  • the employee’s partner has died; or
  • it is less than six weeks after the birth (and the mother gave notice before the birth)

Shared parental leave in touch (SPLIT) days

Employees can work for up to 20 days during SPL without bringing it to an end. These are called ‘shared parental leave in touch’ (or SPLIT) days.  These SPLIT days may be to discuss plans for your return to work, training to ease the return to work or to update you on developments at work during their absence.

These days are in addition to the 10 ‘keeping in touch’ (KIT) days already available to those on maternity or adoption leave.

Rights during SPL

During SPL, all terms and conditions of the employee’s contract except normal pay will continue.

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