Yes - parental leave can be shared. But there are certain conditions that need to be met for eligibility, which we'll cover below.

Shared parental leave is a great way to ensure both parents bond with their new child and share responsibility for it's care. It also reduces some of the burden on mums that want to return to work a bit quicker. But it’s not very well understood, and only a small percentage of parents actually make use of the system.

So, for employers and parents-to-be, here’s a simple guide on what you need to know about shared parental leave, including entitlements, amounts, and eligibility.

Shared Parental Leave entitlements

If you’re having a baby or adopting, you and your partner may be eligible for both SPL (Shared Parental Leave - absence from work to take care of a new child) and ShPP (Statutory Shared Parental Pay).

You can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between you, and these have to be done within a year of the birth (or adoption). Both can only be done after the child is born or adopted.  You can use the leave (SPL) all in one go, or in blocks to fit around your work. And both parents can take leave at the same time, or can take it in turns. How this is arranged is up to discussions with the employer.  

Eligibility for Shared Parental Leave

Working parents who share the main responsibility for caring for the child can be eligible for shared leave and pay.

They must both have had a consistent job for 26 weeks, earning at least £120 per week, by 16 weeks before the due date. They need to stay with their employers through their leave, and they need to give at least 8 weeks' notice.

Their jobs must be employment, rather than just work, to get shared pay and leave. So contractors and gig workers aren’t eligible. One of the best ways to check if you’re eligible is to use the calculator on Gov.UK. It’s a series of simple questions about each parent’s circumstances that tells you what you need to know. The full breakdown of eligibility is outlined here.

Statutory Shared Parental Pay (SSHP) amount

The amount of Statutory Shared Parental Pay (per person if both are eligible) is £151.20 per week, or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) - similar to Statutory Maternity Pay.  

For parents, it’s important to research their eligibility thoroughly to see what they can get. For employers, the same applies to make sure everyone’s on board, and to help prevent mix-ups in resourcing. It’s also a wise idea to see what level of contact everyone’s comfortable with during leave - updates on news from the company maybe, or emails about pressing issues could be acceptable for some, but not for others. If these aren’t understood by each party, there could be conflicts later on.  

Finally, it’s important to talk about what happens when the parents return to work. They could be eased in for the first week, or possibly offered part-time or remote working to help with childcare needs. There aren’t any rules about what happens upon return, but for the sake of all involved, a little flexibility will be a great help.

So, there are exceptions, and it can seem like a complicated topic. But it's worth looking into.

Shared parental leave examples

Example One

Charlotte and Pete are both employed and have been with their employers for over 2 years. Charlotte earns more than Pete. They decide that Charlotte will take 12 weeks of Maternity Leave starting from the week before the baby is due. Pete will take his ordinary Paternity Leave of 2 weeks when the baby has been born. After her initial 12 weeks maternity, Charlotte will return to work, whilst Pete stays at home with the baby, using the remaining Shared Parental Leave for 30 weeks until the baby is old enough to be put into nursery.

Example Two

Yasmin is a teacher and meets the conditions for Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay. Her partner Adam is self-employed and meets the employment and earnings conditions. This means that only Yasmin is entitled to Shared Parental Leave, if she decides to take it. She decides to look over her school’s maternity policy before coming to a decision with Adam about what they should do, as he’s not entitled to any paid leave, being self-employed.

Example Three

Rebecca and Cheryl have been together for years and have finally been selected for adoption. Between them, they decide to nominate Cheryl as the ‘Primary Adopter’. This means that she will take the Adoption Leave, whilst Rebecca continues to work, using annual leave to extend her weekends for the next few months. Cheryl is entitled to 26 weeks of Ordinary Adoption Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Adoption Leave.

In a similar topic area we’ve published guides on both Paternity and Maternity leave, we've discussed at entitlements, arrangements and extensions. There’s a wealth of information out there and hopefully our guides help simplify the information.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash