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 critical first year following birth or adoption. The new measures are a proactive response to changing expectations around work and family life – 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.
The new rules offer a refreshing challenge to the assumption that only women will ever be absent from the workplace for caring reasons. The new rights will have long term benefits for all parents, irrespective of gender, and will give families greater choice over how they arrange childcare during this very important time – by allowing working mothers the option to end their maternity pay and leave early, and to share untaken leave and pay with their partner. Adopters will also be able to bring their adoption leave and pay to an early end to opt into shared parental leave and pay with their partner.
- Currently, only 10% of fathers make use of Additional Paternity Leave – the government anticipates that 80% of fathers will take up Shared Parental Leave.
- The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) estimates that around 285,000 working couples will be eligible for SPL from April 2015
Who is entitled to Shared Parental Leave?
Parents of babies due on or after 5 April 2015 (and children adopted on or after 5 April) may be entitled to Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). 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).
As is currently the case, 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. This effectively means that eligible parents will now 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.
To qualify for Shared Parental Leave, 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.
They must also be eligible for maternity pay or leave (or Maternity Allowance or adoption pay or leave) and 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)
For partners to be eligible, during the 66 weeks before the baby is due they 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
Where both parents satisfy the continuity of employment test requirement they will both be able to make use of the pot of SPL.
How much is Statutory Parental Pay (ShPP)?
From 5 April 2015, Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) will be paid at £139.58 or 90% of the claimants average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). To qualify for Statutory Shared Parental Pay a parent must, as well as passing the continuity of employment test, also have earned an average salary of the lower earnings limit of £112 for the 8 weeks’ prior to the 15th week before the expected due date or matching date. Like Shared Parental Leave (SPL), the other parent in the family must meet the employment and earnings test.
What do you need to do to take Shared Parental Leave?
If you feel that taking Shared Parental Leave will benefit your family, it is recommended to discuss your intentions with your employer sooner rather than later giving written notice of your entitlement to Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). Ask for your employer’s policy on SPL – these may differ from company to company, but all schemes must ensure that men and women are treated equally and paid at the same rate in the same circumstances.
For further guidance and advice, please do not hesitate to contact Parental Choice directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
References: ACAS website, Gov.uk website.