As of April 2015, shared parental leave (SPL) entitles eligible mothers and fathers to share their leave entitlement following a birth or adoption. Shared parental leave gives parents greater flexibility when deciding the best arrangement to care for a new addition to their family, whether that’s sharing leave at the same time or separately in turn. Both employers and employees must confirm that specific notification and eligibility requirements are met before approving SPL. As a statutory right for employees, it is the duty of the employer to ensure that parents who are eligible for SPL are not penalised or prevented in any way should they decide to take the entitlement.
How does SPL affect regular parental leave?Parents are entitled to take their regular maternity, paternity or adoption leave entitlement as normal. However, an eligible mother may now choose to reduce her standard maternity or adoption leave entitlement in favour of SPL. The time saved (up to a maximum of 52 weeks) can then be taken as SPL and split between the two parents accordingly.
Statutory shared parental leave payShared parental leave pay is currently set at a statutory minimum of £139.58 per week, or 90% of an employee's average weekly income, whichever is lower. The only difference between this and statutory maternity pay is that the first six weeks of statutory maternity pay amounts to 90% of whatever the employee earns, with no maximum. Both employers and employees should be aware that shared parental leave pay is only due to be paid for 37 weeks – if taken, the remaining 13 weeks of leave entitlement is unpaid.
SPL notification systemEmployees can submit three separate notices, each one requesting a continuous block of leave. Employers can refuse any further requests beyond this , and may also refuse any discontinuous blocks of leave (two or more) requested as part of the same notice period. Continuous leave notifications must be accepted by the employers. Periods of continuous leave tend to work to the employer’s advantage by minimising any disturbance to day-to-day business.
Confirming notificationsEmployers should confirm each leave agreement within 14 calendar days of receiving notification from the employee. If a discontinuous block is requested, the employer has 14 calendar days to reach an agreement with the employee. If no agreement is reached during this time, the employee can withdraw their notice and re-submit another notification without any deduction from their allotted notice requests. If the employee chooses not to withdraw their request, the default provision applies and the discontinuous leave must be transferred into one continuous block. In which case, the employee can specify exactly when the leave begins, providing it is within eight weeks from the date of the request. If the employee does not specify a start date, this automatically defaults to the date the discontinuous leave would have started.
The law behind shared parental leaveLegislation on shared parental leave is documented in the Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014 and Shared Parental Leave and Leave Curtailment (Amendment) Regulations 2015. As part of the 2016 Budget, George Osborne announced government plans to extend shared parental leave to include working grandparents. The consultation is planned for May 2016.
- Shared parental leave effectively allows eligible parents to split the standard 52 weeks’ maternity leave between both parents.
- Shared parental leave operates on a system of notifications, with specific legal guidelines for how employees and employers should handle requests for leave.
- Statutory shared parental leave pay is currently set at a statutory minimum of £139.58 per week, or 90% of an employee's average weekly income, whichever is lower.