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Shared Parental Leave

What is shared parental leave?

For children due to be born or adopted on or after 5 April 2015 a mother can choose to end her maternity leave early and, with her partner or the child’s father, opt for shared parental leave instead of maternity leave provided they both meet the qualifying requirements.

The usual rights to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay remain in place, as well as the right to 2 weeks’ paternity leave, but additional paternity leave is abolished.

When does shared parental leave take effect?

Employers could start to receive notices of eligibility and the intention to take Shared Parental Leave from qualifying employees from January 2015.

How does shared parental leave work?

Qualifying parents will be allowed to share a pot of leave and can choose to be off work at the same time, or take it in turns to have periods of leave to look after the child (ie, absences on leave can be consecutive or concurrent).

The mother (or adopter) must elect to take shared parental leave rather than maternity (or adoption) leave. She must then give notice to curtail her maternity (or adoption) entitlements and must share the main responsibility for caring for the child with the child’s father or their partner.

Who qualifies for shared parental leave?

The mother must satisfy a continuity of employment test ie, have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which the child is due (or at the week in which an adopter was notified of having been matched with a child or adoption) and must still be employed in the first week that Shared Parental Leave is to be taken.

If both parents satisfy the employment test requirement they will both be able to make use of the pot of Shared Parental Leave.

The other parent must satisfy a work and earnings test ie, have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks up to the due date and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold in 13 of the 66 weeks, which can include self-employed workers. This will not entitle them to take Shared Parental Leave, but will enable their partner to qualify.

When can Shared Parental Leave be taken?

At any time within the period that begins on the date the child is born (or the date of the placement) and ends 52 weeks after that date.

Will ‘Keeping In Touch’ days still apply?

Yes, up to 10 days without terminating maternity leave or pay initially and up to 20 days additional for each parent on Shared Parental Leave.

How is shared parental leave booked?

Leave must be booked at least 8 weeks in advance by notice in writing, although there is window of 6 weeks after the birth (or adoption) of a child in which the mother may change her mind and remain on maternity leave. Each eligible parent is entitled to submit three separate notices to book or vary leave. That leave must be taken in complete weeks and may be taken either in a continuous period, which an employer cannot refuse, or in a discontinuous period, which the employer can refuse. If a request for discontinuous leave is refused, then the total amount of leave requested in the notice will automatically become a continuous block unless it is withdrawn.

What should a notice specify?

Every notice must specify what leave is available, how much leave they are entitled to take, the leave the parent is intending to take and how they expect to take it.

How can an employer respond?

The employer can accept or vary the notification given. Alternatively it may refuse discontinuous leave or fail to respond, in which case the employee may withdraw the request within 15 days and it will not count towards one of their three notices. If not then the employee must take the total leave booked in a continuous block.

Is Shared Parental Leave paid?

In the absence of any contractual arrangement to the contrary, statutory Shared Parental Pay is paid at a corresponding rate to statutory maternity pay. If the mother (or adopter) reduces their entitlement to maternity (or adoption) pay or maternity allowance before they have used their full entitlement then Shared Parental Pay can be claimed for any remaining weeks.

To qualify for Shared Parental Pay a parent must, as well as passing the continuity of employment test, meet the relevant earnings threshold. Like Shared Parental Leave the other parent must also meet the work and earnings test.

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