An essential guide to shared parental leave
I am sure that every man and his child knows about the new Regulations that came into force from December 2014 in relation to Shared Parental Leave (if not, where have you been?). However, do you know how they will work in reality?
Here is a brief guide to the regulations to help you understand who is entitled to take leave, how much leave can be taken and the process for requesting leave.
What is Shared Parental Leave?
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is designed to allow the mother, father or adoptive parents to share the caring responsibility of their child. It only applies where the expected week of childbirth begins on or after 5th April 2015 or where the child is placed for adoption on or after this date. The leave is to be taken in the first year of the child’s birth/adoption.
Currently, a mother or primary adopter is able to take 52 weeks maternity/adoptive leave. Under the new scheme, if they wish to end their maternity/adoptive leave early, then both parents are able to share the remaining weeks of maternity/adoptive leave as SPL.
If the mother or primary adopter does not end the maternity/adoptive leave early, the other parent has no entitlement to SPL and the default position is that the mother or primary adopter will continue with maternity/adoptive leave. In this case the other parent will only be entitled to two weeks ordinary parental leave.
Who is eligible?
As with many rights given to employees, there are certain tests that the employee has to meet in order to be eligible. These are:
BIRTHS: the mother must be entitled to statutory maternity leave, statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance and the mother must end her right to these for both parents to be able to utilise SPL;
ADOPTIONS: the primary adopter must be entitled to statutory adoption leave or statutory adoption pay and the primary adopter must end their right to these for both parents to be able to utilise SPL.
In addition to the above, an employee wishing to take SPL must:
- Have been employed continuously for 26 weeks before the 15th week of the EWC and remain in employment one week before the SPL is to be taken;
- Be one of the two main carers of the child;
- Their partner must have worked for 26 weeks out of 66 weeks (this can include being self-employed – more on this below) and have minimum earnings as set by government (currently £30 per week)
Here is a quick example – Martin has been employed for 18 months. Martin’s partner is entitled to maternity allowance. However, Martin’s partner has only worked for 15 weeks out of 66 weeks. Martin will therefore not be entitled to any SPL.
How much SPL and how it can be taken?
The first step is to calculate how much maternity/adoptive leave the mother or primary adopter has taken before a notice to end that leave is issued. This is then deducted from the total 50 weeks of leave available (remember the first two weeks of maternity/adoption leave are compulsory). This will give you the amount of SPL available for the parents to share.
Here is a quick example – Sarah has taken 12 weeks maternity leave (including two weeks compulsory) and informs her employer that she wishes to end her maternity leave. Sarah and her partner are able to share the remaining 40 weeks leave as SPL.
Those eligible for SPL can take leave in three blocks of a minimum of one week per block. The block may be continuous or discontinuous but must be complete weeks. If the block of leave is continuous an employer has to accept it, subject to the employee following the process below. If the block of leave is discontinuous (i.e. one week off, two weeks at work, one week off, two weeks at work) the employer must consider the request but has no obligation to accept it.
The Regulations allow for both parents to be absent at the same time. This can either be because they are taking SPL together, the mother is taking SPL whilst the father is taking paternity leave or the mother is still on maternity leave but has given notice to end it and the father takes SPL.
Laura Pearce, Senior Solicitor
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