Shared Parental Leave is a new family leave entitlement introduced in 2015. It is available to natural or adoptive parents and the intention is to enable parents to make more flexible decisions about the care of their children during the child’s first year. It replaced the recently-introduced Additional Paternity Leave entitlement (which enabled fathers to take a longer period of leave), but does not affect the two weeks statutory paternity leave which remains in place.
Using shared parental leave, parents are able to share the care of their child, including choosing which parent will take more time off, sharing time off evenly or even being off at the same time.
The total amount of leave available to parents is the same as statutory maternity leave or adoption leave – a maximum of 52 weeks. Mothers can give notice that they intend to curtail their statutory maternity leave and share the rest of the leave entitlement with their partner, and the same applies to adopters.
Shared parental leave must be taken as complete weeks and the minimum period of an instalment of leave is one week. Employees can take it in one continuous block, or, unlike with maternity/adoption leave, parents can also take leave in up to three ‘instalments’ and decide to come back to work for a while and then go off on leave again.
Employees may qualify for statutory shared parental pay.
Shared parental leave and pay have quite complicated entitlement/notification requirements. Both parents must fulfil individual entitlement criteria and a joint eligibility test is also applicable. There are also processes for notification of these entitlements and for booking of individual periods of leave. Each parent in a couple has to go through the application process with their employer.
For this reason it’s worth even small employers contemplating having a clear shared parental leave policy in place, so that employees and managers both understand clearly what the entitlements are and what they need to do, and even forms for employees to fill in to ensure they cover the various notification/entitlement requirements adequately.
If you would like more guidance about shared parental leave do get in touch.