Shared Parental Leave in a Nutshell

It has been one year since Shared Parental Leave was introduced for new parents. The new system of leave is one of the biggest changes to maternity and paternity entitlements in recent years, allowing parents to share a period of leave between themselves. Yet, research released on its anniversary shows that take up in the first year has been low.

My Family Care, in conjunction with the Women’s Business Council, surveyed over 1,000 parents and 200 businesses and discovered that few couples are making use of Shared Parental Leave.

The findings showed that financial affordability, lack of awareness, and unwillingness from women to share their maternity leave are barriers to men using Shared Parental Leave entitlements. However, on a more positive note, the research also showed that fathers are interested in taking up Shared Parental Leave in the future, with 63% of men (who already have young children) saying they would be likely to use the leave if they were to have another child.

Is Shared Parental Leave something that you have considered? Here are some of the main questions and answers to help you understand how the scheme works and whether it will benefit your family.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

Shared Parental Leave allows eligible parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave between themselves after the birth of a baby. The leave is flexible and parents can choose how they would like to take it; for example parents can take alternate blocks of leave or can choose to be off at the same time.

How does this impact on Maternity Leave?

A mother must take at least two weeks’ Maternity Leave after the birth of a child (or four weeks if she works in a factory). After this point she can choose to give up the rest of her Maternity Leave and transfer the remaining weeks to Shared Parental Leave, which is shared between herself and her partner. This can be at any point during her Maternity Leave as long as she has notified her employer appropriately. Once the mother ends her Maternity Leave she gives up her maternity entitlements, which includes any Enhanced Maternity Pay her employer might offer. Any remaining Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) becomes Shared Parental Leave Pay.

Are fathers still entitled to Paternity Leave?

Yes, fathers are still entitled to Paternity Leave, however, as with Maternity Leave, if the couple decide to take up Shared Parental Leave the father also gives up his right to Paternity Leave. He can choose to take his two weeks’ Paternity Leave before Shared Parental Leave begins.

Additional Paternity Leave is no longer available, as it has been replaced by Shared Parental Leave.

How flexible is Shared Parental Leave?

You and your partner can choose how you would like to use your Shared Parental Leave. You can take time off together or separately, in blocks of as little as one week if you choose. For example, if a couple have 50 weeks’ Shared Parental Leave, they can choose to take 25 weeks each and be off simultaneously, or they can take alternate months off separately. It is up to the parents to choose, however their employers must approve the pattern of leave they have chosen in advance.

Will my employer allow me to take Shared Parental Leave?

Qualifying employees have the legal right to choose to take Shared Parental Leave. As long as you have given the correct notice and documentation, your employer will be required to comply with this request. Employers cannot refuse a request for a continuous period of Shared Parental Leave, but they can refuse a request for periods of discontinuous leave. If this happens it may then be necessary to submit separate requests for each block of leave and give the required notice for each request.

More information

For more information on Shared Parental Leave, including eligibility criteria, notice periods and required documentation please see our Shared Parental Leave Factsheet. If you would like to speak to an advisor about your entitlements please phone 028 9267 8200.