What is Shared Parental Leave?

shared parental leaveI run a small company developing bespoke software for a variety of clients. We employ 2 staff as well as myself, and have become pretty busy over the last year as the business has grown quickly. Now a key member of my staff has informed me that his wife is pregnant and he will be taking 6 months off work as Shared Parental Leave with his wife! His skills and knowledge cannot be replaced just for 6 months – do I have to give him this time off and keep his job open for him?

The quick answer is yes you do, assuming he and his wife meet the necessary criteria for Shared Parental Leave.

It gives them the option of sharing up to 50 weeks of statutory maternity / adoption leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity / adoption pay if they meet the necessary eligibility criteria. The parents can decide to be off work at the same time and/or take it in turns to have periods of leave to look after the child.

What are the eligibility criteria?

To be eligible for shared parental leave, your employee (or their partner) must be entitled to maternity / adoption leave, or statutory maternity / adoption pay (or maternity allowance from the Government) and they must share the main responsibility for caring for the child. In addition, they will also be required to follow a two-step process to establish eligibility as follows:

Step 1 – Continuity test: if they are just seeking to take shared parental leave, one parent / adopter must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which the child is due (or at the week in which an adopter was notified of having been matched with a child or adoption) and they should still be employed in the first week that shared parental leave is to be taken.

The other parent /adopter has to have worked for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 a week in 13 of the 66 weeks.

Step 2 – Individual eligibility for pay: To qualify for shared parental pay the parent / main adopter must, as well as passing the Continuity test above, also have earned an average salary of the National Insurance lower earnings limit or more for the 8 weeks prior to the 15th week before the expected birth / adoption.

If your employee and their partner meet the eligibility criteria:

  • They can effectively “convert” a period of maternity / adoption leave and pay into shared parental leave and pay that can be taken by either parent.
  • Your employee can take shared parental leave concurrently with their partner when they are on maternity / adoption leave or shared parental leave.
  • Shared parental leave does not have to be taken in a single continuous block, it can be taken in chunks of as little as a week (but discontinuous blocks can only be taken with your agreement).
  • When on shared parental leave your employee will be entitled to the same terms and conditions that would have applied had they been at work, with the exception of pay.
  • Shared parental leave may be taken at any time within the period which begins on the date the child is born or date of the adoption placement and ends 52 weeks after that date.

Here are a couple of examples of how this could work:

  1. Baby is born and the mother immediately commits to taking 27 weeks maternity leave and pay leaving 25 weeks leave and 12 weeks pay to be shared with the father. The father takes 2 weeks paternity leave when baby is born and then immediately takes the 25 weeks leave and 12 weeks pay. Both parents return to work after 27 weeks having used all their shared parental leave.
  2. The mother / main adopter ends her leave after 26 weeks, and the balance of the leave and pay – 26 weeks leave and 13 weeks statutory maternity / adoption pay is available to be shared between the parents as they choose. The father takes 10 weeks leave and pay, while the mother returns to work. He then returns to work and the mother takes the remaining 16 weeks leave and 3 weeks pay.

Your employee will need to give you at least 8 weeks notice of each period of Shared Parental Leave. He could divide this into 3 blocks if he want but you would need to agree to this; however if he just asks to take it as one continuous block you have no option but to agree to it! You will also need to ensure you properly administer his statutory shared parental leave pay. You would be sensible to introduce a Shared Parental Leave policy to ensure both you and your employee know what is required to ensure this goes as smoothly as possible. There is a free policy template you can download here.

The new regulations do allow you to ask your employee to work for up to 20 days during his SPL for training purposes, meetings or just to keep generally up to date with the business. These days would not extend his SPL and would be paid at his normal rate. You are not obliged to offer this and he is not obliged to attend.

To add to your burden, he will continue to accrue his annual leave entitlement when he is on SPL so that will need to be given to him at some point too.

Remember too that as well as SPL he is also entitled to take 18 weeks unpaid Parental Leave for each of his children after he has one years service with you. This is limited to 4 weeks per year, but in theory he could also add this to his away time from your business!

Overall uptake of SPL is not likely to be high – mainly because statutory shared parental pay is not very attractive. The current rate would be £138.18 a week or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. However where you do need to absorb this into your business it could potentially be quite onerous.

 

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