What is shared parental leave?
Instead of taking the full 52 weeks of maternity or adoption leave, the mother or the ‘primary’ adopter can choose to share 50 weeks of their leave with their partner through shared parental leave.
Either the father or partner takes shared parental leave and pay and the mother or ‘primary’ adopter stays on maternity or adoption leave and pay (although for a reduced period) or both parents can take shared parental leave and pay, as long as they qualify.
To qualify for shared parental leave, an employee must have 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the 15th week before their baby is due or the matching date in the case of adoptions, and remain in that employment when the leave is taken. They must be sharing main responsibility for childcare (grandparents are not included). Their partner must be working as an employee or in self-employment for at least 26 of the 66 weeks up to the due date of birth or placement with average weekly earning of at least £30 a week in 13 of the 66 weeks.
Employees who qualify for shared parental leave must notify their employer of their entitlement and intention to take leave at least eight weeks before their first period of leave. They can request more than one period of leave, although an employer has the right to refuse to agree to the ‘discontinuous’ periods of shared parental leave, although there must be a 14-day discussion period following any refusal. If there is no agreement, the employee is still entitled to take shared parental leave in a continuous block.
Notification must be signed by both parents and this notification must include:
- confirmation of the mother or primary adopter’s entitlement to leave
- the amount of leave each parent intends to take and when.
The mother or ‘primary adopter should also confirm in writing that they agree to the shared parental leave, and their partner shares main responsibility for the care of the child and meets the ’employment and earnings’ test. The parents can subsequently vary the amount of leave that each will take by notifying their employers of the change.
Right to return
During shared parental leave an employee’s normal terms and conditions of employment should be maintained, except those relating to pay. Employees can work or attend training for up to 20 SPLIT (‘Shared Parental Leave in Touch’) days without bringing the leave to an end.
An employee returning from shared parental leave is normally entitled to return to the same job as long as the total leave with their partner taking maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave, is not more than 26 weeks. If the period of leave exceeds this, and it is not reasonably practicable to return to the same job, they are entitled to return to a suitable alternative. Employees on shared parental leave who are at risk of redundancy are entitled to be offered suitable alternative employment available.
Employees must not to be subjected to detrimental treatment because they have taken, or tried to take, shared parental leave, or because their employer believed they were likely to take shared parental leave. A dismissal for such reasons will be automatically unfair.