Employees who have a baby or adopt a child may qualify for Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay. But what exactly are they and what are the rights of employers and their staff?
This Shared Parental Leave and Pay employer guide looks to explains employee eligibility, SPL entitlement rates, and how to split blocks of leave, plus much more.
What is shared parental leave?
Shared parental leave is a statutory benefit introduced in 2015 to help parents share leave between themselves after birth or adoption. Both maternity and adoption leave can be shared. Shared adoption rights are available to men and women whether they are in a same sex or heterosexual relationship.
The mother or ‘primary adopter’ must take the first two weeks of maternity or adoption leave. They can then choose to share up to 50 weeks of the leave with their partner by opting into the scheme.
What is the criteria for shared parental leave eligibility?
Providing the mother or primary adopter ends their maternity or adoption leave early, they will be allowed to take any remaining leave as shared parental leave with their partner.
To get Shared Parental Leave there must be 2 parents sharing responsibility for a child. For either parent to get SPL, the birth parent or primary adopter must do one of the following:
- End their maternity or adoption leave and return to work.
- Give their employer notice to end their maternity or adoption leave early.
The mother or primary adopter must still take at least 2 weeks’ maternity leave (4 weeks if they work in a factory), by law.
Other criteria include:
- The parent who is to take SPL must be sharing responsibility with the other parent from the day of the child’s birth or adoption placement.
- The parent must be legally classed as an employee.
- The parent must pass the ‘continuity of employment test’ and their partner must pass the ‘employment and earnings test’.
- The parent must remain in employment while they take their Shared Parental Leave.
- The parent must provide the ‘correct notice’ and a declaration that their partner meets all employment and income requirements.
What is the continuity of employment test?
The parent who wishes to take shared parental leave pass a continuity of employment test which includes the following criteria:
- They must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before their baby is due or their adoption match date.
- They must still be working for the same employer a week before the start of each block of leave they take.
What is the employment and earnings test?
Up to the expected birth date or adoption match date, the other parent (that is the parent who is not the mother or primary adopter) must have:
- Worked for at least 26 out of the previous 66 weeks.
- Earned an average of at least £30 a week in any of these 13 weeks.
Are there any workers who aren’t eligible for Shared Parental Leave?
Yes, there are. Workers, including agency, contract and zero-hours workers, are not entitled to SPL but might be able to still get Shared Parental Pay.
What if the parent stops having responsibility for the child?
If the employee taking Shared Parental Leave stops sharing responsibility for the child, they must tell their employer straight away.
Their entitlement to leave and pay will end and their employer may require them to return to work, although the sensitive nature of the issue may require the employer to be flexible.
If it’s not practical for the employer to take the employee back straight away, they can require them to stay off for any remaining shared parental leave already booked for up to 8 weeks.
Are employee’s rights to SPL protected by the law?
During Shared Parental Leave, the employee is still entitled to all the terms and conditions of their employment contract, except for their usual salary and other payments.
It’s against the law for an employer to treat an employee unfairly because they’ve taken Shared Parental Leave.
What if only one parent is eligible for Shared Parental Leave and/or Statutory Parental Pay?
If only one parent in a couple qualifies for Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay, they will not be able to share the leave.
What is Statutory Shared Parental Pay?
Providing employees meet the conditions of employment status, they will also be able to get Statutory Shared Parental Pay if they:
- Meet the eligibility criteria for Statutory Maternity Pay or Statutory Adoption Pay.
- Qualify for Statutory Paternity Pay and their partner is eligible for any of the following:
- Statutory Maternity Pay
- Maternity Allowance
- Statutory Adoption Pay
Can an employer refuse a request for Shared Parental Leave?
An employer can only refuse a request for Shared Parental Leave or Statutory Shared Parental Pay when an employee fails to qualify. If this is the case, employers must inform their employees about the reason for refusing the request.
How many weeks can I take Shared Parental Leave for?
Employees who are eligible for Shared Parental Leave and either they or their partner end maternity or adoption leave and pay early can take:
- Shared Parental Leave for the rest of the fifty-two weeks of leave up to a maximum of fifty weeks.
- Statutory Shared Parental Pay for the rest of the thirty-nine weeks of pay up to a maximum of thirty-seven weeks.
As mentioned before, mothers and primary adopters still need to take at least two weeks of maternity leave following the birth of the child (four weeks if working in a factory).
What must an employee do before taking Shared Parental Leave?
Employees must supply their employers with written notice before starting Shared Parental Leave or Statutory Shared Parental Pay. As a rule, the minimum notice period for leave is eight weeks but the notice period can be shorter if the child is born more than eight weeks early.
Once the employer receives this notice, they will be able to ask their employee for:
- A copy of the child’s birth certificate.
- Name and address of their partner’s employer.
The employer has fourteen days to ask for this information and the employee has a further fourteen days to provide it.
Shared Parental Leave is a great option in the modern workplace for parents and adopters.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide. For more helpful workplace information, check out the rest of our website.
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