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workingmums.co.uk outlines your rights if you want to take Shared Parental Leave.
Shared Parental Leave [SPL] legislation came into force in April 2015. The legislation, which enables parents to share parental leave in the first year after their child is born, was always a compromise and uptake has not risen significantly since it came in. This is for various reasons, including cost, the complexity of the legislation, the onus on the mother giving up her leave and changes in flexible working which mean some dads can be around, working from home, while still earning. Another reason is lack of awareness of how it works.
However, the discussions around SPL have prompted some employers, including Aviva and, recently, engineering and construction firm Laing O’Rourke, to go a step further and introduce equal parental leave policies. But for the majority of employees SPL is their only route to sharing their parental leave.
So, how does SPL work?
The law entitles couples to share the 50 of the 52 weeks after their baby is born [the first two weeks’ leave after birth are compulsory for the mother].
Those eligible must include a person who has worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date and remain with them while they are on SPL and a person who has worked in either an employed or self-employed capacity for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the baby’s due date and has earned at least £30 a week in any 13 weeks during the 66 weeks.
Currently, parents on SPL are entitled to a total of 39 weeks’ shared parental pay between them less any maternity pay taken or due to be taken. SPL is paid at the statutory rate of £156.66 a week. Some employers have chosen to enhance this.
There are various ways the leave can be shared. Parents can do so in one chunk, one after the other or in discontinuous blocks, giving the correct notice. Employers can turn down discontinuous blocks of leave and ask for the leave to be taken in one block. They can both be off work at the same time – one on SPL and the other on maternity leave.
Take-up of SPL is still very low. As mentioned above, one of the possible reasons is the complexity of the legislation. Workingmums.co.uk has received a number of questions to our legal experts on aspects of the legislation and here we outline some of the issues that have come up. They fall under three broad categories: finance, rights and notice periods.
Some have questioned whether it is discrimination if an employer enhances maternity pay, but not Shared Parental Pay.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled in 2021 that it did not constitute direct sex discrimination for an employer to pay an employee on SPL a lower rate of pay than an employee on adoption or maternity leave. However, there is the possibility of further equal pay claims related to adoption cases and HR experts say increased demand for shared parenting and awareness of parental leave policies make it worth employers looking carefully at their policies.
While you cannot work while on parental leave, unless it is self-employed work, without bringing your parental leave to an end, you can use SPLIT Days which can be paid, in negotiation with your employer. These are essentially the same as Keeping in Touch days for those on maternity leave.There are 20 SPLIT Days per parent during SPL [where you can work for the whole or part of 20 days and be paid so you don’t lose contact with your work]. These are on top of the 10 KIT Days for maternity leave. However, your employer has to agree them.
One woman asked if she and her partner would still be entitled to SPL if his short-term contract was not renewed during the period.
Lawyer Danielle Ayres from Gorvins Solicitors said: “You must give the appropriate notices [ at least eight weeks], setting out the periods of leave you wish to take, prior to your partner’s contract coming to an end and he must ensure that he is still in employment with his current employer during the last week before SPL commences.
With regard to Shared Parental Pay, ACAS says: “If an employee’s employment comes to an end while they are still entitled to some Shared Parental Pay then any remaining weeks will usually remain payable unless they start working for someone else.”
Another mother asked about giving advance notice of ending her maternity leave, being off on maternity leave while her partner is on SPL and the implications for statutory pay.
Danielle Ayres said: “In respect of pay, you are entitled to a total of 39 weeks’ shared parental pay between you, again, less any maternity pay taken or due to be taken. Therefore any money received by you, as statutory maternity pay, or by your husband as shared parental pay would need to be deducted from the total 39-week entitlement.
“When you take the leave does not alter the total number of weeks of shared parental leave and pay, so if you are planning on taking the time off together and are both being paid in respect of the same, your entitlement to leave and pay will in effect reduce quicker than if you were to take separate blocks of leave.”