What is a Shared Parental Leave Policy?
Shared parental leave is a relatively new right that allows parents to share time off to care for their child during the child’s first year. From April 2015 parents have been able to share 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after having a baby. The right is also available to adoptive parents and intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement. Employers can use a written shared parental leave policy to inform employees of their right to take shared parental leave, and the correct process to follow.
Take up of shared parental leave has been report to be as low as 2% and a recent report from the House of Commons highlights a range of reasons why fathers weren't exercising this right. The government is looking to encourage update with a new campaign promoting the benefits of shared parental leave.
Who can take shared parental leave?
Shared parental leave can be taken by two people who share the main responsibility for caring for the child: the mother and either the father of the child or the spouse, civil partner or partner of the child’s mother. They both must meet certain eligibility criteria.
Eligibility criteria for shared parental leave
For the mother to be eligible, she must be entitled to statutory maternity leave (or pay) and have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the baby is due. In addition, her partner must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the child’s due date and have earned an average of at least £30 a week in any 13 of those weeks.
How much shared parental leave can you take?
The maximum amount of leave that can be shared between working parents is 50 weeks.
When can shared parental leave begin?
Shared parental leave cannot begin before the compulsory period of two weeks' maternity leave following the birth of the child as this can only be taken by the mother. After that the parents can elect to take leave together or consecutively but it cannot be taken until the mother’s maternity leave or pay period has ended, either by the mother going back to work or by giving her employer a curtailment notice. Shared parental leave must be taken before the child’s first birthday and in complete weeks but may begin on any day of the week.
Written notice to employer
Employees wishing to take shared parental leave must give their employer written notice of their entitlement and intention at least eight weeks before they want the leave to begin and must specify the dates on which leave is to begin and end. The written notice must be accompanied by a declaration signed by the employee stating, amongst other things, that the employee meets, or will meet, the eligibility conditions and is entitled to take shared parental leave. A declaration signed by the employee’s partner must also be submitted. An employee is entitled to submit three notifications specifying intended leave periods.
How can shared parental leave be taken and can it be refused?
Shared parental leave can be taken as one single continuous period of leave, e.g. six weeks in a row, or as two or more periods of discontinuous leave, e.g. where the employee returns to work between periods of leave. An employer cannot refuse a request for a continuous period of leave but may refuse a request for discontinuous leave or propose different dates. If a request for discontinuous leave is refused and alternative dates cannot be agreed, the employee can withdraw the notice (and it will not count as one of their three notification entitlements) or take the total amount of leave notified as one period of continuous leave.
The Clickdocs Shared Parental Leave Policy package includes sample letters that can be used to confirm or refuse an employee's request to take shared parental leave.
Shared parental pay
The eligibility criteria for shared parental pay (ShPP) are slightly different. To qualify, employees must satisfy certain continuity of employment and average weekly earnings conditions as well as giving proper notice. ShPP may be taken for up to 37 weeks and is paid at the current weekly ShPP rate or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).
Can parents work during shared parental leave?
Employees are entitled to work for their employer or attend training for up to 20 days during shared parental leave without bringing their shared parental leave to an end or affecting their right to claim ShPP for that week. These "Shared Parental Leave In Touch" or “SPLIT” days may only be worked if both the employee and the employer agree.
Rights during shared parental leave and on return
Employees are entitled to the benefit of their normal terms and conditions of employment, except for terms relating to salary, throughout the period of shared parental leave. Entitlement to annual leave continues to accrue during shared parental leave. Shared parental leave is granted in addition to normal holiday entitlement.
Rights of employees on returning to work will depend on the amount of leave they have taken together with any other statutory leave. If an employee’s aggregate total statutory maternity/paternity/adoption leave and shared parental leave amounts to 26 weeks or less, the employee is entitled to return to the same job they held before commencing the last period of leave. If the aggregate total amounts to 26 weeks or more, the employee is entitled to return to the same job they held before commencing the last period of leave or, if this is not reasonably practicable, to another job which is both suitable and appropriate and on terms and conditions no less favourable.