As few as 2% of eligible working couples are using Shared Parental Leave, estimates the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Introduced in 2015, Shared Parental Leave (ShPL) allowed eligible working couples the opportunity to share and organise leave from work in a way which worked best for their family, following the birth of their child or adoption. Whilst the BEIS believes an estimated 285,000 couples are eligible to take ShPL each year, they have judged half of the general public are unaware of this right and how this works.

In response, the government has launched an awareness campaign on ShPL. The ‘Share the joy’ campaign will target the lack of knowledge about the latest way to take parental leave by carrying out advertising campaigns targeted at commuters. Alongside adverts online and on bus routes, a new website on ShPL has been created by the government to provide employees with detailed information and guidance on the leave.

The awareness campaign is likely to lead to an increase in questions from employees about ShPL. Below are some top tips about the leave:

  • Employees can only take ShPL if both partners meet eligibility tests. Your employee has to have 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth or matching week and share responsibility for the child’s care with the partner. The partner has to meet the ‘employment and earnings’ test.
  • ShPL can only be taken where the mother cuts short her maternity leave or adoption leave. As 2 weeks leave has to be taken as compulsory maternity leave, and the adoption scheme mirrors the maternity scheme, there is a maximum of 50 weeks leave to be shared between the couple.
  • Both partners can take ShPL at the same time, meaning they are off work and caring for the child together. Alternatively, an employee can take a period of leave, return to work and then take a further period of leave at a future date.
  • Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) is available to eligible employees for up to 39 weeks, less any weeks paid as Statutory Maternity or Adoption Pay. Statutory ShPP is payable at a fixed rate; currently £140.98 per week but set to increase to £145.18 from April.
  • There are strict notification requirements the employees must meet, including serving a leave curtailment notice, a notice of entitlement and intention to take leave, and a notice to take leave. A failure to submit these notices, or to give proper notice, will mean the employee is not entitled to take leave.
  • The rules around ShPL are complex and may be difficult to understand. Having a clear, well-drafted Shared Parental Leave Policy in place will help employees, and managers, navigate their way around the leave.

Do you need advice on how Shared Parental Leave works or the requirements for your employees? Speak to your HR Expert today for advice on this complex area.