The Ultimate Guide To Shared Parental Leave

The first year of your child’s life is a wondrous time. From entering the world to their first birthday, your bundle of joy develops at a staggering rate, growing more in these 12 months than at any other period. Strong bonds between child and parent are also created during this stage. Shared parental leave offers both parents the chance to build those bonds (and not lose out on their career in the meantime!).

Here, we’ll explore the ins-and-outs of shared parental leave and help you work out if it’s an avenue your family can consider.

parents on shared leave holding baby

What is shared parental leave (SPL)?

Shared parental leave, or SPL, provides qualifying parents with the flexibility to split leave from work and pay during the crucial first year. Shared parental leave allows partners to split their entitled time off work, ensuring that neither misses out on quality time with their little one.

How does SPL work?

To take shared parental leave, the 52 weeks of maternity leave must be brought to an end, sharing the remainder of this period with the secondary parent. As the mother is still obliged to take two weeks of compulsory maternity following birth, this creates a pool of 50 weeks to share out between the parents.

Once approved, it’s up to the parents to decide how they use the leave. SPL gives each parent the right to take chunks of leave which are broken up with periods of work. They can also choose whether they want to take the time off together or opt for staggered leave.

The Qualifying Criteria

While all employees have the right to stake their claim for SPL, there are certain criteria which the applicant must meet. If you’re a fairly new employee, qualifying for shared parental leave may be difficult.

The lead applicant is subjected to the continuity of employment test, which looks for consistent employment up to the 15th week before due date. If you’ve worked for the same employer for 26 weeks up to this point, then you are eligible for SPL.

There’s also the case of your partners qualification.

To earn shared parental leave, the secondary parent must pass what’s known as the employment and earnings test. They must prove employment for a minimum of 26 weeks during the 66-week period before the due date.

They must also have earned an average of £120 a week as a minimum during 13 of those weeks. If all the boxes are ticked, then there should be no barriers to shared parental leave qualification.

Related: How To Budget for Maternity and Paternity Leave

Shared Parental Leave Criteria For Adoptive Parents

Similar criteria also apply to adoptive parents, making them suitable for both shared parental leave and pay. First of all, both parents must share full responsibility of the child in question. They must also meet work and earnings testing. To do so, both adoptive parents must have been in employment for 26 weeks prior to matching with their child, as well as earning a weekly average of £120 per parent.

What About Shared Parental Pay?

Statutory shared parental pay is dished out at £151.20 a week, or 90% of you weekly earnings if the figure is lower. It’s possible that your employer offers more than the minimum payment, so be certain to check company policy on the matter, or discuss with those in the know, to ensure you receive your full entitlement.

If, for whatever reason, you do not return to work, you won’t be obligated to give the funds back as employers are entitled to claim 92% of shared parental pay.

To qualify for statutory shared parental pay, you and your partner must meet the criteria established for SPL as well as an additional measure. Your average earnings must meet a weekly threshold of at least £120 during the 8-week period prior to due date.

How To Take Shared Parental Leave

To trigger your entitlement to shared parental leave, the first step is to put a stop to maternity leave. This is done by giving ample notice to your employer. Take time to ensure this is the correct decision for you and your partner before putting the wheels in motion, as maternity leave cannot be restarted, barring extenuating circumstances.

man talking to HR manager in office

Once maternity is cancelled, a notice of SPL entitlement form must also be given to your employer. Within this document, information such as the amount of maternity used up to now, how much leave each parent wishes to take and dates of leave commencement must be included, as well as a declaration from the parental partner in question.

You can then book your leave. Choose between continuous leave of up to 3 blocks, or discontinuous leave which allows you to pick and choose days. You must provide 8 weeks notice from the start date of your leave and reach an agreement within 14 days of your request. Bear in mind that you accrue holidays as normal during SPL, and you may be able to use paid holidays in between shared parental leave blocks to extend time off.

Returning To Work After SPL

Having taking time off to actively participate in your child’s first year, returning to work can seem like a daunting task. Many may feel that they’ve been left behind, or that their position is under threat after taking time away. However, you have full entitlement to return to your job under the same conditions. Employees are protected against unfair dismissal and employers have to prove reasonable cause if they choose to prevent those on SPL from returning to work.

Your new circumstances also give you the right to request a change to your working hours on return. Child-friendly working hours help workers to juggle childcare while also being there for the big moments in your child’s life. These rights are only in place for those who have worked at the company for a minimum of 26 weeks and acceptance of the terms is at the discretion of your employees.

Can I Be Made Redundant During Shared Parental Leave?

While redundancy is possible, there are protective measures in place. Should you be made redundant while on SPL, employers have an obligation to offer appropriate alternative vacancies rather than a dismissal. The role must be suitable for the capabilities of the employee. A new contract must also be proportionate in terms of pay and benefits. Failure to offer a suitable vacancy to someone made redundant while on SPL can be deemed an unfair dismissal.

Want to know more about shared parental leave? Check out the UK Government’s Shared Parental Leave & Pay Guide.