From 5 April 2015, the introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) will mean that parents are able to take advantage of changes to the parental leave system to give them more flexibility in how to share the care of their child in the first year following birth or adoption. It is hoped that the new rules will drive a culture change in workplaces across the UK where it is just as normal for fathers to take on childcare responsibilities as mothers.
Shared Parental Leave will enable eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed for adoption. This could mean that the mother or adopter shares some of the leave with her partner, perhaps returning to work for part of the time and then resuming leave at a later date.
Currently, only 10% of fathers make use of Additional Paternity Leave – the government anticipates that 80% of fathers will take up Shared Parental Leave.
Who is entitled to Shared Parental Leave?
You may be entitled to Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) if:
- Your baby is due on or after 5 April 2015
- You adopt a child on or after 5 April 2015
Eligible parents will be able to share a pot of leave, and can decide to be off work at the same time and/or take it in turns to have periods of leave to look after the child. Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday (or within 1 year of adoption).
Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of Maternity Leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance.
If they choose to do so, an eligible mother can end her maternity leave early and, with her partner or the child’s father, opt for Shared Parental Leave instead of Maternity Leave. If they both meet the qualifying requirements, they will need to decide how they want to divide their Shared Parental Leave and pay entitlement.
Paid Paternity Leave of two weeks will continue to be available to fathers and a mother’s or adopter’s partner, however Additional Paternity Leave will be removed (Shared Parental Leave will replace it).
Adopters will have the same rights as other parents to Shared Parental Leave and pay.
Who will qualify?
To qualify, the mother or adopter must be entitled to, and have given notice to curtail their, maternity or adoption entitlements and must share the main responsibility for caring for the child with the child’s father or their partner.
You or your partner must be eligible for maternity pay or leave or Maternity Allowance or adoption pay or leave.
You must also:
- have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (or by the date you are matched with your adopted child)
- be employed by the same employer while you take Shared Parental Leave (SPL)
Your partner’s eligibility
During the 66 weeks before the baby is due your partner must:
- have been working for at least 26 weeks (they don’t need to be in a row)
- have earned at least £30 a week on average in 13 of the 66 weeks
They can be employed, self-employed or an agency worker.
Where both parents satisfy the continuity of employment test requirement they will both be able to make use of the pot of Shared Parental Leave (SPL).
Please see our separate page on Statutory Shared Parental Pay regarding qualifying requirements and your eligibility for claiming this.
Starting Shared Parental Leave
You or your partner can only start Shared Parental Leave (SPL) once the child has been born or adopted. The mother or adopter must have either:
- Ended any maternity or adoption leave by returning to work
- Given ‘binding notice’ (a decision that can’t normally be changed) to their employer of the date when they plan to end any maternity or adoption leave
- Ended maternity pay or Maternity Allowance (if they’re not entitled to maternity leave, e.g. they’re an agency worker or self-employed)
The mother or adopter must give notice to their employer (at least 8 weeks) to end maternity or adoption pay, or to Jobcentre Plus to end Maternity Allowance.
You can start Shared Parental Leave while your partner is still on maternity or adoption leave as long as they’ve given binding notice to end it.
A mother can’t return to work before the end of the compulsory 2 weeks of maternity leave following the birth (4 if she works in a factory).
Notification of Shared Parental Leave
You must give your employer written notice of your entitlement to Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP), including:
- Your partner’s name
- Start and end dates for maternity or adoption leave and pay
- The total amount of Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay available and how much you and your partner intend to take
- Confirmation that you’re sharing childcare responsibility with your partner
You must also include a signed declaration from your partner stating:
- Their name, address and National Insurance number
- That they satisfy the qualifying requirements for Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay
- That they agree to you taking Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay
After receiving this notice, your employer has 14 days if they want to ask for:
- A copy of the child’s birth certificate
- The name and address of your partner’s employer
You must provide this information within 14 days.
Discuss your intentions with your employer sooner rather than later!
You must give at least 8 weeks’ notice of any leave you wish to take. If the child is born more than 8 weeks early, this notice period can be shorter. Leave must be taken in complete weeks and may be taken either in a continuous period, which an employer cannot refuse, or in a discontinuous period, which the employer can refuse. You have the right to book a maximum of 3 separate blocks of leave, although your employer can agree to more.
Shared parental leave in touch (SPLIT) days
You and your partner can both work up to 20 days during Shared Parental Leave. These are called ‘shared parental leave in touch’ (or SPLIT) days. These days are in addition to the 10 ‘keeping in touch’ (or KIT) days already available to those on maternity or adoption leave. Keeping in touch days are optional – both you and your employer must agree to them.
Employers should have in place a policy that sets out the rules and procedures for applying for and taking Shared Parental Leave (SPL). There is no established statutory requirement to mirror occupational maternity schemes when a Shared Parental Leave scheme is established. However, the important thing is that within a Shared Parental Leave scheme, men and women are treated equally and paid at the same rate in the same circumstances.
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