Shared Parental Leave: Quick guide for employers

May 6, 2015

New regulations allowing parents to share leave following the birth, or adoption of a child have now come into effect.  Shared Parental Leave is intended to provide both parents the opportunity to care for their child during their first year, allowing women to curtail their traditionally longer maternity leave and effectively share it with their partner.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to familiarise yourself with the new regulations and think about how they might impact your organisation.  This article won’t give you all the answers, but it covers the basics and provides some suggestions to ensure you are prepared.

Shared Parental Leave (SPL): The basics

  • SPL effectively comprises of 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory Shared Parental Pay which can be shared between eligible parents.
  • It can be taken either as a continuous period or at different times throughout the year, in multiples of complete weeks.
  • Parents can opt to take SPL consecutively or concurrently, allowing them to take more time off together if they want to.
  • The rights apply to parents in work, including those who are adopting, same-sex couples, co-habiting couples, and couples bringing up a child together even if the baby is from a previous relationship.
  • SPL replaces “additional paternity leave.”

What happens to maternity, adoption and paternity leave?

Employees are still entitled to take maternity, paternity and adoption leave. So, fathers are still entitled to two weeks’ paid paternity leave and mothers must still take the initial two weeks after the child is born (more if they are employed to carry out manual work in a factory).  The difference is that they can now, under the new rules, cut their remaining maternity leave short and exchange it for SPL.

Example: Mother ends maternity leave after 6 weeks following birth.  This leaves 46 weeks of leave.  She can choose to take 30 weeks and her partner can take the other 10 weeks.  If they wanted to the couple could take 23 weeks each and have it at the same time.

Who’s eligible?

In order to qualify for Shared Parental Leave a parent must:

  • Share the main responsibility for the care of the child with the other parent.
  • Have been continuously employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the child’s due date (or the date they are matched with their adopted child) and remain in employment until the week before any period of Shared Parental Leave is due to start (this is known as “the continuity test”).
  • The other parent also needs to satisfy an “employment and earnings test” by (i) having worked, as an employee or self-employed earner in Great Britain, for at least 26 weeks of the 66 weeks leading up to the due date of childbirth or placement for adoption and (ii) having average weekly earnings of at least £30 per week in 13 of those 66 weeks.

In order to qualify for Shared Parental Pay the employee must:

  • Meet the above requirements for Shared Parental Leave.
  • Have earned not less than the lower earnings limit (currently £112 per week) for the eight weeks up to (i) the end of the 15th week before the child’s due date or (ii) the week of the placement for adoption (i.e. the same test for Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay or Statutory Paternity Pay).

So, an employee who is entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay or Statutory Paternity Pay and who has a partner who meets the employment and earnings test, will be eligible for Shared Parental Pay.

Obligations and responsibilities

  • An employee opting for SPL must formally notify you of their entitlement to SPL and must ‘book’ the leave they wish to take by giving a ‘period of leave notice’ at least eight weeks’ before the leave is due to start.
  • An employee can make up to three requests for leave under the SPL regime. Each notice can be for a single period of leave or can be for discontinuous/multiple periods of SPL.
  • As an employer you cannot refuse a request for a continuous period of SPL.  However, if you receive a request for discontinuous/multiple periods of SPL you can suggest an alternative, or refuse the request.  If you refuse a multiple leave request, the employee must still be allowed to take SPL for a continuous period (single block) instead.

Example:  If a member of staff requests a single block of leave (e.g. six weeks starting on a specific date) you must agree to that request (as it is a request for a continuous period of leave). But if the employee puts in a request for a discontinuous period of leave (e.g. three weeks’ leave followed by four weeks at work followed by six weeks’ leave) you can either accept or reject that request or propose an alternative.

Employer Considerations

  • Consider creating a Shared Parental Leave Policy – It can be a standalone policy, or be included within a wider maternity and paternity policy. An SPL policy is a good idea because it helps ensure consistency. However, if you decide against having a policy, you need to ensure that your employees know how to apply for SPL.
  • Think about pay – Consider whether to enhance pay for employees taking SPL and, if so, by how much and for how long, as well as the interaction with current maternity pay entitlements.
  • Decide how requests for multiple periods of SPL will be approached – The employer does not have to agree to these if they are made in the same period of leave notice, but must agree each request made in a single notice even if more than one notice is given by the employee.
  • Train management – Make sure that managers understand SPL, your obligations as an employer and your company approach to managing requests.
  • Spread the word – Inform the workforce about the right to SPL and how to take it.
  • Organise an early meeting – When you learn an employee is pregnant or adopting a child, organise an early informal meeting to discuss their options and ensure that they are aware of their rights. This is also likely to provide an indication of their intentions which can prove helpful for planning purposes and allow you more time to consider how the work of employees taking leave might be covered.

More information

If you need to know more, take a look at the comprehensive “Shared Parental Leave: a good practice guide to employers and employees” and  the“Shared Parental Leave summary process”, both  written by ACAS: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4911].

In addition, the government’s official website gov.uk has a section on shared parental leave, including a pay and leave calculator and a guide for employers:  https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay/overview.