Shared parental leave is notoriously a bit of a mind boggler, even (sometimes) for HR professionals. To make sure you’re meeting the statutory minimum requirements in the legislation, you’re best to get help from someone with the relevant experience in HR who has handled shared parental leave before. Here we answer some common questions from employers:

What is the difference between paternity leave and shared parental leave?

Paternity leave entitles an employee (who has been working for you for at least 26 continuous weeks) to take up to two weeks paid paternity leave to support their partner with a new baby.

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is designed to allow families to spend time together in the early stages of a child’s life and is intended to give parents more flexibility than additional paternity leave. The main differences are that both parents can take SPL at the same time as each other, it can be taken in multiple periods and taken at any time up to the child’s first birthday (or within one year of adoption).

What is shared parental leave?

Eligible staff have a statutory right to take Shared Parental Leave and/or pay if they give you the correct notice.

Eligible parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay with their partner and/or take their leave and pay in a more flexible way. With employer agreement, each parent can take up to 3 blocks of leave, more if their employer allows, interspersed with periods of work.

The leave and pay is ‘created’ when a mother or adopter ends or commits to ending their maternity or adoption entitlement early, to opt into the SPL and pay schemes. Your employee must tell you if they want to do this and provide you with certain information to enable you to process their request for leave and/or pay.

How do I check if an employee is eligible for shared parental leave and shared parental pay?

To be eligible for SPL and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP), both parents must:

  • Share responsibility for the child at birth
  • Meet work and pay criteria – these are different depending on which parent wants to use the shared parental leave and pay

For the mother’s partner to take SPL and ShPP, both the mother and the mother’s partner must meet some eligibility requirements.

The mother must:

  • Have been employed continuously by you for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (they don’t need to be in a row)
  • Have earned at least £390 in total in 13 of the 66 weeks (add up the highest paying weeks, they don’t need to be in a row)

The mother’s partner must:

  • Have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date
  • Stay with the same employer until they start their SPL

To be eligible for SPL, the partner must be an ‘employee’ (not a ‘worker’) – check their employment status. If the partner is a ‘worker’, they might be able to get ShPP but not SPL.

To be eligible for ShPP, the partner must earn on average at least £123 a week.

How does shared parental leave work?

  •  Leave and pay can be shared following the first two weeks after the baby’s birth. This means up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared.
  • The pay and leave must be shared in the first year after the child is born or placed with the family.
  • If you are in agreement, SPL can be used for an employee to take leave in up to three separate blocks and they can return to work in between, instead of taking it all in one go. (Each block must be a minimum of one week)
  • Parents can choose to be off work together, or to stagger the leave and pay.

Do I need a policy?

To ensure consistency in handling SPL, it’s a good idea for employers to set out the working arrangements and the employee’s rights in a policy, which could be a standalone policy, or included within a wider maternity and paternity policy, or as we like to call it, a Family Friendly policy. At an absolute minimum, we recommend employers ensure their employees know how to apply for SPL.

Our expert HR consultants can advise on best practice with regards to Shared Parental Leave and creating relevant policies, to ensure the business isn’t put at risk of a claim of discrimination and of course, to ensure equality in the workplace.

For help with Shared Parental Leave requests or advice, get in touch for a chat with one of our HR experts.

If you like this, you’ll like: Maternity Leave: An employer’s guide