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 its 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 £116 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 £145.18 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.
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.