Shared Parental Leave – The Complete Guide (in 14 Steps)
The gender pay gap has received a great deal of media attention in the past few months and highlighted a number of concerns related to working women’s lower lifetime earnings. One of the key topics of discussion has been the way in which childbirth can have a drastic impact on women’s earnings and why historic gender roles – and the policies and attitudes that support them – put women at a professional disadvantage. Shared parental leave has been legislated for in order to address one aspect of these concerns. Here, we provide parents-to-be with all the information they need to organise their shared parental pay.
Shared Parental Leave Legislation
Shared parental pay is covered by the aptly named Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014. These regulations came into effect on the 1st December 2014 and were applicable to newborn babies with an expected birth date of the 5th April 2015 or later. The regulations are made under Part 8 of the Children and Families Act 2014 and are designed to work in tandem with existing maternity leave legislation and policies.
What Does The Legislation Aim To Do?
The Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014 were introduced in an attempt to provide families with a means of ensuring both parents played a fundamental role in the early stages of their child’s development. Shared parental leave could also be perceived as a way of trying to bring greater equality to the workplace by removing obstacles that prevent both parents being able to share childcare responsibilities. Rather than mothers being the only member of the family to receive extensive leave, both partners may now take significant time off from work to care for their newborn baby.
Who Is Eligible?
An employee is able to take shared parental leave if they are the mother or father of a newborn child, or the partner of the mother of a newborn child. However, parents also need to meet other qualifying criteria. These include;
- The mother must be eligible for maternity leave and have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks at the 15th week before the due date.
- The mother’s partner must have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks out of the 66 weeks leading up to the due date.
- The mother’s partner must have earned above the maternity allowance threshold. This works out at an average of £30 per week in 13 of the 66 weeks leading up to the due date.
It is important to note that the use of the term ‘partner’ in the above criteria is specifically defined as a spouse, a civil partner, or someone living with the mother in an enduring family relationship. This person cannot be a relative.
Who Has The Right to Apply For Leave?
Rights to shared parental leave do not only apply to male-female parents or any single way of becoming a parent. Same sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual partnerships. Similarly, shared parental leave, is also available to those who become parents by adopting or through a surrogacy arrangement.
In the case of adoption, one of the parents is considered the primary ‘adopter’ and will have to curtail their adoption leave in order to institute shared parental leave. For a child born through a surrogacy agreement, it will be the parents taking care of the child who are eligible for shared parental leave, as long as they meet the rest of the criteria.
Who Has the Right to Shared Parental Pay?
Parents may also be able to receive Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). However, the eligibility requirements for ShPP are slightly different from those for shared parental leave. In order to apply for ShPP, parents must;
- Have earned above the ‘Lower Earnings Limit’ in the weeks that lead up to the 15th week before the child’s due date. The Lower Earnings Limit for the 2018/2019 tax year is £116 a week. However, this figure changes year to year.
- Have passed the continuity of employment tests detailed above.
ShPP is set at a flat weekly rate (£145.18 at the time of writing) or 90% of your weekly salary – whichever is lower. In order for parents to make use of ShPP, the mother must curtail her maternity leave and pay, allowing the partner to share the remaining time available.
How Much is Available?
Parents are entitled to a total of 48 or 50 weeks shared parental leave once the child has been born. The amount of shared parental leave that parents can take between them is 52 weeks, minus the amount of maternity leave taken by the mother. Shared parental leave and maternity leave cannot be taken in tandem.the first two weeks after the birth are reserved for the mother of the child as maternity leave and cannot be shared to allow for a full recovery and guarantee the health and safety of the mother this means the maximum period of shared parental leave will be 50 weeks. For individuals working in a factory, the two week period is extended to four weeks meaning the maximum period will be 48 weeks
When is it Available?
How parents decide to divide their shared parental leave is typically their decision. It is possible to take it simultaneously or back-to-back. That being said, there are a number of rules that may influence parents’ decisions. For instance;
- Shared parental leave must be taken in blocks of a week or more. It is not possible to take a few days here and a few days there. It cannot be taken in more than three blocks
- Shared parental leave must be taken in the 52 weeks following the birth date.
- Shared parental leave cannot exceed the 48 or 50 weeks available to parents.
How is Notice of Shared Parental Leave Given?
The notification process that employees have to go through in order to be eligible for shared parental leave can be complicated. However, it is designed to prevent misuse of the system and, with a little planning ahead, shouldn’t pose too many problems. Employees have to meet a number of criteria if their notice is to adhere to requirements. These include;
- An Entitlement Notice must be given to their respective employers by each of the parents. This Entitlement Notice must be handed in 8 weeks in advance of the shared leave start date.
- For the mother, the Entitlement Notice must inform her employer of her entitlement to shared parental leave, declare that her partner has handed in an Entitlement Notice to their employer, and agree that she has consented to the amount of time they’re proposing to take.
- A Period of Leave Notice must also be submitted 8 weeks before the relevant period of leave begins. A total of 3 Period of Leave Notices may be submitted. They should detail the precise start and end dates for the proposed leave.
Can Employers Reject Shared Parental Leave?
In some circumstances, employers can refuse shared parental leave. However, their ability to do so is limited and does depend on how the requested periods of leave are structured. There are two main scenarios;
- If a parent requests one continuous period of shared leave, the employer cannot refuse it. They are legally obliged to agree to the parent’s request.
- If a parent requests a number of shorter periods of shared leave – in other words, if the leave is broken up or discontinuous – the employer has a number of possible reactions. In such a case, employers can approve the leave, suggest amendments to the scheduling, or outright refuse the request. If they do refuse the request, they should have a good business reason for doing so. This may be because it’s too difficult to arrange cover over a discontinuous period or because it interrupts the workflow on a particularly important project.
If parents are put in the position of having discontinuous periods of leave refused, they can then choose to take it as one continuous period. This request cannot be refused.
Work Commitments During Parental Leave
Work commitments that may arise during shared parental leave can be dealt with using Keeping In Touch (KIT) days. When used during shared parental leave, KIT days are often referred to as Shared Parental Leave In Touch (SPLIT) days. Parents are entitled to 20 SPLIT days on top of the 10 KIT days allowed by maternity or adoption leave. A KIT day may involve a whole day’s work or just a few hours work and can be used without shared parental leave coming to an end. They are completely optional and both employer and employee must agree to them. There is no required notice period for KIT days, but it’s a good idea to discuss the matter with an employer as soon as possible, as they are dependant on both parties agreement.
Returning to Work
Once a parent has completed their designated leave and are ready to return to work, one of two things should occur;
- If the parent has taken less than 26 weeks leave, they will be entitled to return to their previous job.
- If the parent has taken more than 26 weeks leave, they are entitled to return to their previous job unless this is not reasonably practicable.. If it is not reasonably practicable the employee has the right to return to another job that is suitable for him or her and appropriate in the circumstances.
It is worth noting that this 26 week figure is the combined total of shared parental leave and relevant statutory leave. For parents, this means that their statutory maternity, paternity or adoption leave will be added to their shared parental leave for a combined total.
How to Cancel Shared Parental Leave
If a parent wishes to cancel share parental leave, they can do so providing that submit a cancellation notice 8 weeks before their leave start date. It’s also possible to change or vary proposed leave dates, as long as a written notice is handed in 8 weeks prior to the start date. The cancellation notice typically takes the form of a letter to the HR department or the team responsible for organising shared parental leave.
For parents, it is important to note that a cancellation notice (or a notice requesting a change in leave dates) counts as one of their three Period of Leave Notices. If they have already used up their three notices, they can still attempt to cancel or change proposed leave periods, but the employer is under no obligation to agree to the request.
Considerations For an Early Birth
If a child is born earlier than expected, parents can alter their proposed leave without giving the usual 8 weeks notice. There are a number of potential scenarios that affect how shared parental leave is organised.
- If the child is born before the expected due date and shared parental leave is already booked for a period within the first 8 weeks of birth, they can alter the leave period without giving 8 weeks notice. Instead, a notice must be given as soon as reasonably possible. This does not count as one of their three notices.
- If the child is born before the expected due date but shared parental leave is booked for a period following the first 8 weeks after birth, the leave period is unaffected and must be changed in the normal manner.
- If the child is born 8 weeks or more before the expected due date and no Entitlement Notice has yet been submitted, there is no need to give 8 weeks’ notice. In such a case, the notice should be given as soon as reasonably possible.
Annual Leave and Shared Parental Leave
As with all other types of statutory leave, those on shared parental leave continue to accrue annual leave while they’re not working. While annual leave is generally used in the year it is accrued, if shared parental leave or other related circumstances make this unrealistic, employers will often consider allowing it to rollover to the following year.
At times, organising shared parental leave can seem overly confusing and difficult to organise. In some ways, it has been designed to be so in order to ensure the system is not manipulated. However, with plenty of planning, it’s generally possible to arrange shared parental leave in a way that meets the needs and wishes of both parents. In order to ensure this, parents need to communicate closely with their employers, understand their rights, and ensure they submit notices within the designated timeframe.
Questions about shared parental leave? Wirehouse has been providing employment and HR advice to employers since 2010. Contact us today