We’ve had a high number of calls about shared parental leave lately and in particular, the eligibility requirements. We’ve set these out below, however, because individual circumstances can differ greatly, we encourage our members to take specific advice from the Advice Service.

The aim of shared parental leave is to give parents the flexibility to decide who will take time off after a baby is born/adopted, and how much time they will take off.

Eligibility

To qualify for shared parental leave, your employee must:

• Have 26 weeks’ service at the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC);
• Have a partner who meets the employment and earnings test. This means that in the 66 weeks before the EWC, the person has worked for at least 26 weeks and has earned on average at least £30 a week in any 13 weeks;
• Share the primary responsibility for the child with the other parent at the time of the birth;
• Have properly notified you of their entitlement and have provided the necessary declarations and evidence.

If you employ the mother, additionally she must:

• Have a partner;
• Be entitled to statutory maternity leave or statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance;
• Have ended, or given notice to end, her maternity leave.

Between them, the parents cannot take more than 52 weeks of leave.

How can leave be taken?

Shared parental leave enables parents to take either one continuous period of leave, or more than one discontinuous period of 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 blocks of one week – it is not possible to take a day’s shared parental leave. The minimum amount that can be taken is one week.

Theoretically, the parents can allocate the leave between themselves how they choose: they may decide to take 26 weeks each; or they may decide that the mother will have 40 weeks and the father will have 10. 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.

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.

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.

Education Business Partner Hussain Ahmed says: “Although take up of shared parental leave has not been as high as expected by the Government, our education members have certainly seen their fair share of interest from their workforce. It can be a complicated process – definitely more complicated than the traditional maternity leave system. What’s more, it is not something that is affected by the Brexit because it is a purely domestic piece of legislation.”