Taking Shared Parental Leave means that employees who qualify to take it can decide for themselves how to split the leave between them, albeit with some restriction. Because of the flexibility, it will not be possible for you to predict how an employee will take the leave, and that is why it is a requirement for the employee to give you a rough plan of how they think they will take leave during the year.

Shared parental leave enables parents to take either one continuous period of leave, or more than one separate period of leave – this will be discontinuous leave. It is up to your employee to tell you how they want to take it. Both mother and father can take leave at the same time. For example, they may decide that they both want to be off work for the first 26 weeks of the baby’s life.

Shared parental leave can only be taken in minimum blocks of one week – it is not possible to take a day’s shared parental leave.

Any pattern of leave can be put forward by the employee: the mother and her partner may, for example, decide to take 26 weeks each; or they may decide that the mother will have 40 weeks and the father will have 10. Or it may be that the mother takes 3 weeks maternity leave before the birth, then her 2 weeks compulsory maternity leave, followed by 2 further weeks of maternity leave, and then her husband takes the rest i.e. 45 weeks. Provided that the mother takes her compulsory maternity leave of 2 weeks (or 4 weeks if she performs manual work in a factory) immediately after the baby is born, she can choose to end her maternity leave at any stage.

Your employee may tell you that they want to take alternate weeks for the maximum of their shared leave, effectively meaning that your employee will be in work for a week, then out on leave the following week, then back in for a week etc.

If your employee is the mother’s partner, he/she can take shared parental leave whilst the mother is still on maternity leave as long as the mother has informed her employer that she is ending her maternity leave and opting into shared parental leave.

Shared parental leave can start on any day of the week.

It is possible that an employee may take, for example, 6 months’ maternity leave before they decide to opt in to shared parental leave, at which point the required notices must be given, giving 8 weeks’ notice of a period of shared parental leave. It is not appropriate, therefore, to expect that an employee will not be opting into shared parental leave because they have not told you before the birth.

If you need any clarification on this issue then contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.