Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is now available for eligible parents of babies due on or after 5 April 2015. It allows both parents to share childcare during the first year after birth.
SPL does not replace maternity/paternity leave, it is just another option for parents. A mother still has to take two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave immediately after the birth of a child (four weeks for manual workers in a factory environment).
What is SPL?
The amount of SPL that can be taken is calculated using the mother’s 52 week statutory maternity leave entitlement. If the mother decides to reduce her maternity leave entitlement, her partner can decide to take SPL for the remainder.
Alternatively, parents can share the childcare throughout the year as eligible employees can submit up to three notices to stop and start their SPL and return to work between periods of leave.
An employer must agree to SPL if the request is for one period of unbroken leave. If an employee requests several periods of leave, with breaks between leave when the employee will return to work, this requires an employer’s agreement.
If a request of this nature is received, the employer can take into account the impact the request would have on the business, such as:
- the impact on customers in client facing roles;
- staffing issues and cover;
- staffing issues and cover; and
- whether the periods of SPL will coincide with busy periods or planned events.
If an agreement cannot be reached within 14 days, the employee can either decide to take the leave as one unbroken period or alternatively submit another request.
In order to be entitled to SPL, both parents have to meet a number of eligibility criteria.
In addition to the mother being eligible for maternity leave and pay, the partner also has to demonstrate that within the 66 weeks leading up to the due date, he/she has worked for at least 26 weeks and earned an average of at least £30 a week in any 13 week period.
Shared Parental Pay
Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) is only available to the partner if the mother has not used her full 39 weeks’ statutory maternity pay entitlement. As such, if a mother returns to work after 6 weeks of maternity leave and her partner starts SPL, the partner would be entitled to the remaining 33 weeks statutory maternity pay as ShPP.
Terms and Conditions
In the same way as the current maternity leave provisions, all terms and conditions of employment will continue during any periods of SPL, except for pay, and an employer can keep in touch with the employee during “in touch” days.
The employee will also have the right to return to work in the same job if the period of leave (including any other period of statutory leave) is 26 weeks or less.
The right to SPL also applies to those who are adopting a child where the child is placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015.
SPL adds to the numerous family leave rights an employee already has. It is yet another set of regulations which an employer has to contend with whilst trying to run their business.
Employers should consider introducing a SPL policy which sets out how the business will deal with SPL requests, in particular:
- discussing the employee’s intentions and leave options early on;
- the eligibility criteria;
- the notice requirements (particularly where requests are made for discontinuous periods of SPL); and
- if ShPP (whether statutory or enhanced) will be available and how it is calculated.
Please contact the Employment Team if you would like to discuss the benefits of a SPL policy or if you have any questions in relation to SPL.