Shared Parental Leave

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The Shared Parental Leave Regulations are now in force.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

Shared parental leave is available to parents of all babies due on or after 5 April 2015 or children who will be placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015, subject to them meeting certain eligibility criteria.  The aim of shared parental leave is to enable eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to choose how they share time off work to look after their child.

Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance.  However, under the shared parental leave regime, if they choose to do so, an eligible mother can end her maternity leave early (at any point after the second week of maternity leave) and, with her partner or the child’s father, opt for shared parental leave instead of maternity leave. This would mean the parents could effectively share the remaining maternity leave entitlement (a maximum of 50 weeks).  Paid paternity leave of two weeks will continue to be available to fathers/a mother’s or adopter’s partner. Additional paternity leave will be removed and replaced by shared parental leave from 5 April 2015.

The new regime

Under the new regime parents can be off work at the same time, or take turns to have periods of leave to look after the child.  Where eligible under the regime, a parent is entitled to submit multiple separate notices to their employer, to book shared parental leave.  Leave must be taken in complete weeks and may be taken either in a continuous or discontinuous period.

In order to be eligible for shared parental leave:

  1. the mother or adopter must give notice to end their maternity or adoption entitlements;
  2. the mother or adopter must share the main responsibility for caring for the child with the child’s father or their partner;
  3. the parent must pass the continuity of employment test. This requires that the parent be employed with the same employer for at least 26 weeks ending at the 15th a week before the child is due (or the week in which in adopter was notified of having been matched with the child for adoption). The parent must still be employed in the first week shared parental leave is to be taken in order to be eligible;
  4. the parent must pass the employment and earnings test.  This requires that the parent has worked for at least 26 weeks in the previous 66 weeks, leading up to the birth/placement of the child. Within at least 13 of those 66 weeks, the parent must have learned at least £30 per week.

Where they qualify for shared parental leave, parents may also qualify for shared parental pay. This is paid at the prescribed government rate (£139.58 per week from 5 April 2015 or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower). The number of weeks in respect of which pay is due, remains at 39 weeks per pregnancy or adoption, and it is only the remaining balance when maternity leave ends which is shared between the parents.  Employers should be reviewing and amending all family friendly policies, ensuring that the various policies dovetail and do not inadvertently trigger “double recovery” of entitlement or payment.  Careful thought should also be given to whether employers will offer enhanced pay to parents taking shared parental leave.

Watch our webinars today

Frances Cameron and Lisa Kelly in the employment team at Muckle LLP have produced two free webinars on shared parental leave, which we hope you will find helpful.

The first considers the practical effects of the shared parental leave regulations.

The second considers common questions on the regime and tips on how to address difficult issues.

If you have any further queries on shared parental leave, please feel free to contact Amy Sergison on 0191 211 7995 or any of our employment team.