How does Shared Parental Leave work?

January 11, 2017 2:45pm All News Stories  Employment Law News  shared-parental-leave

Gone are the days when mothers were the ones left holding the baby. Employees may be eligible for Shared Parental Leave (SPL), which gives new parents more flexible options when deciding who will take time off to care for the baby.

In this article, we will explain how Shared Parental Leave actually works.

How much leave can be taken?

By law, a birth mother must take a minimum of two weeks’ maternity leave after having a baby, or four weeks for factory workers. As long as these minimum periods are respected, the parents can opt in for SPL at any time. The mother can end her maternity leave early and share up to 50 weeks of the remaining leave entitlement with the father of the baby or her partner.

When can it be taken?

SPL cannot commence before the birth and must be taken within one year of the birth of the child.

Who is eligible?

The right to SPL may be available to the expectant mother and a second person. This second person may be:

  • the father of the child
  • the mother’s spouse
  • the mother’s civil partner
  • the mother’s partner at the time of the child’s birth.

’Partner’ is defined as a person who lives with the mother and the child in an enduring relationship. This specifically excludes relatives.

Employees may only be eligible if certain requirements are fulfilled.

In birth cases, the mother must:

  • be an employee
  • have the right to statutory maternity leave and have returned to work or provided a notice to curtail (end) their maternity leave
  • have worked for you for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the week that the baby is due to be born and remain employed until the week before any block of SPL
  • have the main responsibility for the care of the child (except for the father or partner)
  • provide the appropriate notice.

Additionally, the father of the child or her partner must comply with the employment and earnings tests.

Remember, in adoption cases, there are some slight differences.

The father or partner must:

  • be an employee
  • have worked for a minimum of 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and earned over £30 in 13 of those 66 weeks
  • have the main responsibility for the child (except for the mother)
  • still be employed before any period of leave is taken
  • provide the appropriate notice.

Please note that if one parent does not have the right to SPL (e.g. they are not an employee), the other parent may still be entitled to SPL. Employees may decide to take maternity, paternity and adoption leave and not take SPL.

See our Definitive Guide to Paternity Leave and Pay for more detailed information and guidance.

Notice of entitlement

If an employee is eligible, they can opt-in for SPL by providing you with a notice of entitlement. This must be submitted at least eight weeks before the employee intends to take SPL. In this notice, they must include how many weeks of maternity leave the mother has already taken, how much leave they are entitled to take, how much time off each parent intends to take and a non-binding indication of when this will be. In essence, this notice lets you know that they intend to take SPL and gives some rough idea of how much time off they will taking.

Additionally, the employee must submit a declaration from the father of their child or their partner which clearly states that they meet the required employment and earnings test and agree to the intended time off. However, you do not need to check that everything on the declaration is accurate or that the other parent does in fact fulfil the test.

Notification of leave

After your employee has informed you that they are entitled to take shared parental leave, they must also provide you with notice to book a period of leave, which specifically states the periods of leave they wish to take time off. This must be done eight weeks before the proposed date of the leave.

How can leave be taken?

The mother and father or partner can choose whether to take the leave consecutively or at the same time.

They also have the choice of taking one continuous block of leave or taking discontinuous periods. This means that they can take leave and return to work and then take another period of leave. They have the right to ask for three separate blocks of leave and the minimum period of leave which may be taken is one week.

Employers must accept requests for one continuous period of leave, but in cases of requests for discontinuous blocks of leave, they have 14 days to accept, put forward other suggestions or refuse.

Shared Parental Leave in Touch (SPLiT) Days

Equivalent to Keeping in Touch (KIT) days used during maternity leave, each parent may take 20 SPLiT days during Shared Parental Leave.


Employees have the right to their normal terms and conditions of employment while on SPL, with the exception of their wages. They may be entitled to up to 37 weeks of Statutory Shared Parental Pay.

Download our Definitive Guide to Paternity Leave and Pay 

Get our monthly bulletins straight to your inbox

Learn from the experts

HR & Employment Law Buyer's Guide

Looking to outsource your HR and Employment Law? Download this buyer's guide to help you:
  • Work out if outsourcing is a smart move for you.
  • Understand what aspects you absolutely need help with.
  • Discover the different types of providers and how to find the right one for you.