Shared parental leave and pay: A guide for parents
Discover everything you need to know about shared parental leave, including eligibility criteria, how it works, and what happens if you've already returned to work.
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) provides parents with more flexibility when it comes to childcare in the first year following birth or adoption. SPL allows fathers and partners to become more involved in their child’s life and the flexibility it offers can facilitate a better work life balance.
Parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and share up to 37 weeks of Statutory Shared Parental Pay. This is currently paid at £140.98 per week, which is the same as the last 33 weeks of Statutory Maternity Pay.
There is certainly a lot to take in when it comes to understanding SPL, but the main thing to remember is that if you are eligible, you have a right to take it. Having open discussions with your employer about SPL will also smooth out the process, as it’s important for you to share your needs so your employer can meet them.
Who is eligible for Shared Parental Leave?
In order to qualify for SPL you must:
- Share responsibility for raising the child at the time of birth or adoption with the other birth parent, adopter or your partner (including if you’re married, have a civil partnership or are cohabiting).
- Have been an employee with a minimum of 26 weeks’ service with your employer by the end of the 15th week before the due date or a matching date for adoption.
The mother or primary adopter must also be eligible for statutory maternity pay or leave, adoption pay or leave, or maternity allowance. For parents in a surrogacy arrangement, the same criteria applies.
You can check if you’re eligible for SPL by using the government’s eligibility checker tool.
What is Statutory Shared Parental Pay?
Statutory Shared Parental Pay (SSPP) is the same as Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), which is currently £151.97 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. The only difference between SSPP and SMP is that during the first 6 weeks SMP is paid at 90% of whatever you earn - there is no maximum.
How do you ‘create’ Shared Parental Leave?
SPL can only be created by the mother or primary adopter reducing their maternity/adoption leave. This works through converting this leave into shared parental leave and statutory shared parental pay. The first two weeks of maternity and adoption leave are compulsory, longer for other workers, therefore creating up to 50 weeks of SPL.
You can reduce your maternity or adoption leave by whatever amount of time works for you, for example, reducing your maternity leave by three months to create three months of SPL.
There are two ways parents can take SPL, the first being continuous leave and the second discontinuous leave:
- Continuous leave allows parents to take up to three separate blocks (more if your employer allows) of leave and cannot be refused by an employer.
- Discontinuous leave means parents taking a period of leave, returning to work and then taking a further period of leave. Employers can refuse this type of SPL if they don’t think it’s suitable for their specific workplace but can suggest an alternative arrangement.
When do you book Shared Parental Leave?
Once you’ve applied for SPL and your employer has approved it, it’s time to book your time off. Giving your employer written notice of the SPL period you’ve booked off is called booking notice and must be given eight weeks before you want your SPL to begin.
Your employer must inform you of their decision within two weeks from when you gave in your booking notice. If an agreement between you isn't reached within that two week period, you'll be entitled to take your requested amount of leave as continuous leave.
Since figuring out exact dates can be difficult due to the unpredictable nature of giving birth, you could book SPL off based on a number of weeks after your baby is born. You could tell your employer that you want to take four months of SPL from the end of your maternity leave, for example. This way your employer understands that dates could shift depending on the birth of your baby. You can change these plans later but you must give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice before you want to begin a block of leave.
Extra information requested by employers
Sometimes employers will ask you for some more information, which they are within their right to do, but they have to ask for it within 14 days of you applying for SPL or SSPP. They may ask for:
- A copy of the birth certificate
- A declaration of the place and date of birth (if the birth has not been registered yet)
- The name and address of your partner’s employer or a declaration that your partner has no employer
If you’re adopting, your employer can ask for some other information, which you must provide them with within 14 days of being asked for it. They may ask for:
- Name and address of the adoption agency
- Date you were matched with the child
- Date the child will start to live with you
- Name and address of your partner’s employer or a declaration that your partner has no employer
For more information on SPL check out the useful links below: