A Guide To Shared Parental Leave

A Guide To Shared Parental Leave

Three years ago the government launched the Shared Parental Leave scheme to encourage fathers to take more time off from work after the birth of a child. However, according to recent figures around half the general public remain unaware this option exists and take-up of the scheme among eligible parents could be as staggeringly low as 2%.

Whether you’ve got a baby on the way or are simply planning ahead, we’ve prepared a guide of everything you need to know…

What is Shared Parental Leave?

Shared Parental Leave, or SPL, allows both new parents to share up to 50 weeks’ leave from employment (37 of which are paid) during the first year of their child’s life. A couple can decide to take their leave at the same time or consecutively.

Under the scheme, mothers are still entitled to maternity leave and must take two weeks’ maternity leave after the birth, but they can cut their maternity leave short and switch it for shared parental leave, which can be split with their partner. 

Who qualifies for SPL?

In order to take shared leave, one parent must have been employed for at least 26 weeks with the same employer by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due, and still have the same job in the week before any shared leave is due to start. The other partner must have worked at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and have earned at least £30 a week in 13 of the 66 weeks.

To qualify for shared parental pay, you or your partner must be an employee who qualifies for Statutory Maternity Pay, Maternity Allowance or Statutory Paternity Pay. Unfortunately, this requirement rules out most self-employed people.

When can parents take leave?

SPL is much more flexible than the traditional systems of maternity and paternity leave, as it doesn’t have to be taken in one chunk. Parents can book up to three blocks of leave in the course of a child’s first year, although employers need eight weeks’ notice before you take leave. A mother who wants such flexibility can take her leave as SPL – even if the father takes none of it – rather than traditional maternity leave.

How much shared parental pay are you entitled to?

Shared parental pay is £140.98 a week, or 90% of an employee’s average earnings – whichever is lower – although some employers may offer more. This sum is the same as Statutory Maternity Pay, except that during the first six weeks SMP is always 90% of a mother’s earnings with no maximum limit.

Shared parental pay is only given for 37 weeks. The remaining 13 weeks of leave entitlement, if taken, is unpaid.

What about those who are adopting?

Couples who are adopting can also qualify for SPL under the same requirements as those having a biological child. An adoptive parent would be eligible for up to 50 weeks leave from the official date of adoption.

What steps to take if you want to take SPL…

In order to take SPL and receive the relevant pay, a parent must formally notify their employer of their plans to curtail their maternity leave in favour of SPL at least eight weeks before they intend to take a block of leave.
Application forms are available online at Gov.uk.

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