Partner Sue Dowling, in our Employment Law team, explains Shared Parental Leave (SPL).
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) has been available since April 2015 and enables parents to share leave rights during the first year of their child’s life. It works by allowing parents flexibility over how maternity leave is taken (i.e. it can be shared between both mother and father). The provisions are optional – so the existing law remains in place if SPL is not taken up, i.e. up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave for mothers (with 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay) and 2 weeks’ paternity leave and statutory paternity pay for fathers (and additional unpaid paternity leave of 26 weeks).
SPL is available where both parents are “economically active”. This means that where one parent seeks leave from their employment, the other must have worked in an employed or self-employed capacity in at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the expected week of childbirth, earning on average at least £30 a week based on any 13 of those weeks. Therefore, even if one parent is unemployed or self-employed, provided they satisfied the income test in the weeks before childbirth, their partner will be able to take advantage of the SPL scheme by taking a block of SPL leave rather than specific maternity or paternity leave. Equally, a mother who is an employee but doesn’t have a partner can take up SPL in order to give her flexibility around the dates on which leave can be taken.
How does it work?
The first two weeks after the birth of a child remain mandatory maternity leave for the mother. Ordinary and additional maternity leave and pay will also remain available but this can be curtailed by the mother so that it is something either parent can take, whether separately or at the same time – and applies to both the leave and the statutory pay. SPL is available for the following 50 weeks and can be shared between the parents how they wish but must be taken in whole weeks – subject to a maximum of three separate blocks of leave (unless the employer agrees to more). 20 days will be available to each parent to work as ‘shared parental leave in touch’ days (‘SPLIT’ days), similar to the 10 ‘keeping in touch (KIT) days currently available during maternity leave.
Broadly speaking, 8 weeks’ notice must be given to the employer in advance of the start of any SPL period.
- Ensure your policies and procedures are up to date so that a policy on SPL is included in a staff handbook, alongside the usual maternity and paternity leave provisions.
- Consider any enhanced maternity pay provisions offered by the company and decide whether the business will also wish to provide enhance shared parental pay (rather than just the statutory minimum).
- Train managers and HR professionals, highlighting the main issues to be aware of, including the notification procedures and to bring awareness to the intended benefits of the scheme (promoting gender equality and flexibility for parents).
- While an employer will need to accept a notification for continuous SPL leave, a modification to or refusal of a request for a discontinuous leave block is possible.
- Consider what cover will be needed for the employee’s absence; the 8 week notice period is designed to allow employers to plan accordingly, but the fact that leave periods may be discontinuous will involve careful management of the remaining workforce and perhaps additional support will be required.
- Encourage employees to make any requests as early as possible to enable the business to discuss the request effectively and with time to plan.
- Keep in mind that employees who take SPL will have the right to return to the same job when returning from periods of statutory leave comprising of maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave that totals 26 weeks or less in aggregate; even if the leave is taken in discontinuous blocks. Where the leave is more than 26 weeks, they have the right to return to the same or a similar job.
For further information or legal advice, please contact email@example.com or call 0118 951 6800.
This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.