This is your essential guide to shared parental leave. We’ll examine what UK law says about the issue, then explore the criteria you and your partner must meet in order to qualify.
What is Shared Parental Leave?
Maternity leave is where a new mother takes time off work to raise her newborn child. Paternity leave is where new fathers do the same. Shared parental leave is where both parents get paid leave to spend time with their new arrivals.
There are many benefits to shared parental leave. The most obvious is that it gives both parents an opportunity to make the most of what can be a truly magical time. It also removes a lot of pressure, as you can share the duties of caring for a newborn. Finally, shared parental leave makes it easier for either parent to return to work when they want to.
But not many new parents take advantage of shared parental leave. This may be because of confusion when it comes to rights and responsibilities. So let’s take a look at what UK law has to say about shared parental leave.
Shared Parental Leave and UK Law
If you’re having a baby or adopting a child, you and your partner have two options. As well as shared parental leave (SPL), you can also apply for Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP).
Shared parental leave and pay allowances are pretty generous! Between you and your partner, you can get up to 50 weeks’ leave and up to 37 weeks’ pay. You can use the leave in one go, or take it in blocks separated by periods of work. You and your partner can take the leave together, or you can stagger the leave and pay between you. Whatever works best!
ShPP is paid at the rate of £148.68 a week, or 90% of your average weekly earnings – whichever is lower.
A major stipulation is that you must take the shared leave and pay in the first year after your child is born, or your adopted child is placed in your family. Beyond that, there is separate eligibility for birth parents and for adopters.
Shared Parental Leave – Eligibility for Birth Parents and Adopters
Whether you want SPL or ShPP, you and your partner must:
- Share responsibility for the child at birth
- Meet the work and pay criteria
And here’s where it gets a little complicated. The work and pay criteria are different depending on which parent wants to use the shared parental leave and pay.
If both parents want to share the SPL or ShPP, you and your partner 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. Complicated!
- Stay with the same employer for the duration of the SPL.
- Be classed as employees, rather than workers (explore the difference here).
- Each earn, on average, at least £118 a week.
If either you or your partner is a worker, rather than an employee, you still have options. You can share ShPP, but not SPL. On the other hand, if either of you earns less than that £118 a week, you can share SPL but not ShPP.
Dividing Your Leave
The rules are essentially the same if you want to divide the SPL or ShPP. Sometimes, the mother may want to take the shared leave or pay. Other times, her partner might. In each case, the parent that wants to take the leave has to meet certain criteria. They must:
- Have been working for at least 26 weeks during the 66 weeks before the baby’s due date. These weeks do not have to have been worked in a row.
- Have earned at least £390 in total across any 13 of these 66 weeks.
Meanwhile, the parent that doesn’t take the leave or pay must meet all the criteria outlined above – employed continuously for at least 26 weeks, stay with the same employer, be an employee etc.
If you’re adopting a child, the rules are pretty much the same. The only difference is that there’s no stipulation that you 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. Instead, the cut off point is the end of the week you were first matched with the child.
Starting Your SPL or ShPP
SPL is not the same as maternity or paternity leave. You cannot take two types of leave at the same time.
For SPL to start, the mother – or the person getting adoption leave – must first return to work in order to officially end any prior maternity or adoption leave. The compulsory two weeks of maternity leave after a birth still apply – you cannot end your leave and apply for SPL before these two weeks are up.
Alternatively, they can give their employer a “binding notice”, specifying the date they plan to end their leave. This binding notice is “binding” for a reason – it cannot be changed once it’s been specified.
As soon as you’ve returned to work, or given your binding notice, you can arrange to take your SPL.
For ShPP to start it’s a similar arrangement: The mother, or the person getting adoption pay, must first give a binding notice for when they plan to stop receiving any existing maternity or adoption pay.
Beyond this, you have to give your employer at least eight weeks’ written notice of your intended leave dates. You’ll find a lot of form templates on the government’s site that’ll help you get your SPL or ShPP sorted.
Parental Leave Made Easy
With the e-days absence management system, booking any form of parental leave is a straightforward process that can be completed in a matter of minutes. There’s no fuss, and no need for any paperwork or long strings of emails.
And once an employee’s booked their leave, everyone can see how their absence affects the rest of the business. This makes it easier for managers to cover shifts to guarantee that there’s no loss to productivity.