Shared Parental Leave (SPL) allows parents of children born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015 to choose to share maternity/adoption leave between them of up to 50 weeks and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) of up to 37 weeks.
Mothers must take two weeks’ maternity leave immediately following the birth of the child (four weeks if the mother is a factory worker) and this leave cannot be shared. In most cases this means that parents can choose how to split 50 weeks’ leave between them.
There is no legal obligation to take SPL and if the mother/primary adopter qualifies for statutory maternity/adoption leave and pay, she can still choose to take 52 weeks of leave and 39 weeks of statutory pay.
The other parent is only legally entitled to take two weeks of paternity leave immediately following the birth. If they want more leave, the mother/primary adopter will have to curtail her maternity/adoption leave and opt in to the SPL scheme.
SPL can begin once the child has been born/adopted and the mother/primary adopter has given written notice to end their maternity/adoption leave.
Leave can be taken continuously or discontinuously in up to three separate blocks (which can be split into shorter periods of at least a week). If discontinuous leave cannot be agreed, employers can require employees to take SPL in one continuous block. For many employers, whether or not discontinuous SPL can be granted will come down to whether cover can be arranged for the periods the employee will not be at work.
Parents can choose to take SPL at different times so one parent is at home with the baby or they can have time off together.
The mother/primary adopter must:
- Be employed continuously for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (agency workers are not eligible for SPL, although they may be eligible for Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) if they are classed as employed earners for Class 1 national insurance liability)
- Share responsibility for the care of the child, and
- Be entitled to statutory maternity/adoption leave
The other party (father/partner/civil partner) must share responsibility for the care of the child, and during the 66 weeks before the baby is due have:
- Been working (employed, self-employed or agency worker) for 26 weeks, and
- Earned at least £30 a week on average for 13 weeks
To be eligible for ShPP, the mother must earn on average at least £120 a week and similarly to be eligible for ShPP, the partner must earn on average at least £120 a week.
It is an employee’s responsibility to ensure they are eligible for SPL and ShPP but employers can ask for the following information in order to help them ensure an employee is eligible:
- A copy of the child's birth certificate
- The name and address of the other party’s employer
We recommend that prospective parents meet with their employer(s) early on to discuss the options available and to talk about how any periods of discontinuous SPL would work if they would like to take the leave in blocks.
In order to take up their right to SPL, both prospective parents have to provide certain notices with specific information to both their employers:
- Notice from the mother/primary adopter setting out when they wish to bring their maternity/adoption leave to an end. There is no specific timescale for submitting this notice but employees should keep in mind that notices 2. and 3. below must be given at least eight weeks before the start date chosen for the first period of SPL.
- An employee must give eight weeks’ notice to their employer that they are eligible for and intend to take SPL, and
- An employee must give eight weeks’ notice of the period of SPL. As there can be up to three blocks of SPL, employees can submit up to three notices of periods of SPL, each giving eight weeks’ notice
All three notices may be given to the employer at the same or at different times depending on when the parents decide how they wish to share leave and if their circumstances change.
You can find more information in ACAS’s Shared Parental Leave: a good practice guide for employees and employers about the notices that must be provided and what information they must contain. Employers may also have their own policy on SPL which employees should follow.
During SPL, employees can work up to 20 days Shared Parental Leave In Touch (‘SPLIT’) days without bringing SPL to an end. SPLIT days are in addition to the 10 Keeping In Touch (‘KIT’) days already available on maternity/adoption leave.
Employees should not be subjected to any detriment (including dismissal) because:
- They took, sought to take, or made use of the benefits of, SPL
- Their employer believed that they were likely to take SPL, or
- They took or sought to take SPLIT days or refused a request by their employer to undertake work during a period of SPL
If you feel you have been treated unfairly by your employer over SPL, you can contact our Employment Law team for advice.
If you are an employer wanting clarification on your SPL obligations or an employee who thinks you have been unfairly treated over SPL, it is important to take advice. Thorntons can guide you through the SPL entitlements and the options for both employers and employees.
At Thorntons Family Law, we offer an initial free no-obligation chat over the phone to outline your options and the possible costs.
Depending on your case and circumstances, the next step is to come into one of our local offices to meet a Family Law Solicitor about your case and the way forward.
Call us on 03330 430 150 for a chat or contact us to book an appointment.