Shared Parental Leave – What Employers Need To Know

Those who are entitled to either maternity, adoption or paternity leave may decide to take shared parental leave instead.

This allows parents to share parental responsibility and childcare for the first year after the child is born.

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Who Is Eligible For Shared Parental Leave?

For shared parental leave to be taken parents must satisfy the eligibility requirements.

If both parents meet the requirements, then they can share parental leave.

A mother must:

  • Be eligible for maternity leave or pay and give notice of her intention to curtail this right.
  • Have a partner whom she intends to share parental responsibility with.
  • Have been continuously employed for 26 weeks, 15 weeks before the expected due date

A parent must:

  • Intend to share responsibility for the child;
  • Have been continuously employed for 26 weeks, and remain employed for the duration of the time they intend to take shared parental leave;
  • They must have worked for at least 26 weeks out of 66 weeks before the due date, and earn more than £30 a week for at least 13 of those 66 weeks;
  • Give the correct amount of notice, as well as providing evidence, including a declaration that their partner meets the employment and income requirements that allow them to take shared parental leave.

How Shared Parental Leave works

Shared parental leave does not need to be taken in one long period, but can be taken in up to three blocks per parent, with employees returning to work in between these blocks. As an employer, you can agree for an employee to take more than three blocks during shared parental leave, but this is at your discretion.

The amount of shared parental leave available is based on the mother’s entitlement to maternity/adoption leave, which is currently up to 52 weeks. Mothers may reduce their maternity/adoption leave, allowing them or their partner to take the remaining period as shared parental leave.

For shared parental leave to start, the mother must end her maternity leave by giving a binding notice of her intention to return to work. This notice must be in writing and must be given at least 8 weeks before she intends to return to work.

If parents decide not to take shared parental leave, the mother’s right to take maternity leave remains unaffected.

Notice Of Entitlement

As it is the mother’s primary decision to use shared parental leave, the obligation rests with her to curtail her to maternity leave. An employee must notify you of their intention to take shared parental leave by a notice of entitlement. They must give you at least 8 weeks’ notice of their intention to take shared parental leave.

The notice must include how much leave both parents are entitled to, and how much leave they intend to take. It must also outline the dates of when they intend to take leave and must be signed by both parents.

It can be good practice to have an informal chat with your employee to ascertain their preferences regarding shared parental leave, allowing you both to make preparations.

Options Available

Once an employee has given you a notice of their intention to take shared parental leave, there are several routes you can take:

  • Unconditionally accept a leave notification
    • If an employee requests a continuous period of leave, it must always be accepted. If you are satisfied with a discontinuous leave request, you must confirm your acceptance, ideally in writing, within 14 days confirming the dates.
  • Confirm agreed modification to leave
    • If modifications have been made to the original discontinuous leave request, and you both agree to the changes, then both of you should confirm this in writing within 14 days.
  • Refusal of discontinuous leave
    • If you do not agree with your employee’s proposed discontinuous leave, you should arrange a meeting to discuss their request further. If nothing can be agreed, you should write to your employee giving alternative leave dates, confirmation of your refusal and detail other options available to them. Again, this should be done within 14 calendar days.
  • Failure to respond
    • If you do not respond to your employee’s request, it will have assumed to have been rejected. However, this is not good practice.

Statutory Shared Parental Pay (SSPP)

A mother is entitled to 39 weeks of maternity pay. If she ends her maternity leave before the end of this period, the remaining time may be paid as SSPP. The current rate is 90% of your average weekly earnings, or £140.98, whichever is lower.

For the other parent to qualify for SSPP, they must have earned at least £111 for the 8 weeks prior the 15th week before the expected week of the birth.

Shared Parental Leave In Touch (SPLIT) Days

If during shared parental leave there are certain things that may be beneficial for an employee to take part in, such as training courses or team meetings, you and your employee can agree to take SPLIT days. An employee can take up to 20 days without affecting their shared parental leave.

It should be clear to both you and your employee how much they will earn for a SPLIT day, whether it be their contractual rate or additional pay after SSPP.