Shared parental leave and pay

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) enables eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed for adoption. This could involve returning to work for part of the time and then resuming leave at a later date.

Acas has produced a guide on pdf icon Shared Parental Leave: a good practice guide for employers and employees [538kb].

How Shared Parental Leave works

Shared Parental Leave can give parents more flexibility in how they share the care of their child in the first year following birth or adoption.

Parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay and choose to take the leave and pay in a more flexible way (each parent can take up to 3 blocks of leave, more if their employer allows, interspersed with periods of work).

Eligible parents can be off work together for up to 6 months or alternatively stagger their leave and pay so that one of them is always at home with their baby in the first year.

Who can apply for Shared Parental Leave?

To trigger the right to SPL for one or both parents, the mother/adopter must:

  • have a partner
  • be entitled to:
    • maternity/adoption leave
    • to statutory maternity/adoption pay
    • maternity allowance (if not eligible for maternity/adoption leave)
  • have curtailed, or given notice to reduce, their maternity/adoption leave, pay or allowance.

A parent who intends to take SPL must:

  • be an employee
  • share the primary responsibility for the child with the other parent at the time of the birth or placement for adoption
  • have properly notified their employer of their entitlement and have provided the necessary declarations and evidence.

In addition, a parent wanting to take SPL is required to satisfy the 'continuity of employment test' and their partner must meet the 'employment and earnings test'.

Continuity of Employment testEmployment and earnings test
The individual has worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the child's expected due date/matching and is still working for the employer at the start of each leave period.In the 66 weeks leading up to the baby's expected due date/matching date, the person has worked for at least 26 weeks and earned an average of at least £30 a week in any 13 weeks.

Sometimes only one parent will be eligible. For example a self-employed parent will not be entitled to SPL themselves but they may still pass the employment and earnings test so their partner, if they are an employee, may still qualify.

If both parents are employees and meet the qualifying requirements then there will be a joint entitlement.  The parents will have to decide how to divide the leave entitlement once the mother/adopter has decided to curtail their maternity/ adoption leave.

Shared Parental Pay

From April 2018, Statutory Shared Parental Pay is paid at £145.18 or 90% of an employee's average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

If the mother or adopter curtails their entitlement to maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance before they have used their full entitlement then Statutory Shared Parental Pay can be claimed for any remaining weeks.

To qualify for Statutory Shared Parental Pay a parent must pass the continuity of employment test and have earned an average salary of the lower earnings limit of £116 for the 8 weeks' prior to the 15th week before the expected due date or matching date. The other parent in the family must meet the employment and earnings test.

How to apply for leave and pay

Having an early and informal discussion can provide an opportunity for both the employee and employer to talk about their preference regarding when Shared Parental Leave is taken.

It can also be an opportunity to discuss when any discontinuous leave can be best accommodated if appropriate.

If an employee wishes to take Shared Parental Leave they must notify their employer of their entitlement at least eight weeks before the start of any Shared Parental Leave starts.

It is good practice for an employer to confirm they have received and accept this notification.

Each eligible parent can give their employer up to 3 separate notices booking or varying leave, although each must be given at least eight weeks before the leave is due to start.

Each notice can be for a single block of leave, or the notice may be for a pattern of "discontinuous" leave involving different periods of leave.

If a parent asks for a continuous block of leave the employer is required to agree to it. However, where the notification is for discontinuous blocks of leave the employer can refuse and require that the total weeks of leave in the notice be taken in a single continuous block. It is therefore beneficial for the employee and employer to discuss and attempt to agree a way in which the different blocks of leave can be taken.

Handling an application for SPL

Depending on the circumstances involved, there are four outcomes available to an employer once they have received, considered and discussed a Shared Parental Leave notification. It is important to note an employer cannot refuse a notification for continuous leave.

A) Confirm a continuous leave period or accept a discontinuous leave request.

B) Agree a modification to a leave request (an employee is under no obligation to modify a continuous leave notice and should never be put under any pressure to do so).

C) Refuse a discontinuous leave notification.

D) Whilst it is not good practice and should be avoided, it is possible for an employer to make no response to a leave notification.

For outcomes C and D above, the employee can withdraw their notification on or before the 15th calendar day after the notification was originally made and it will not count as one of their three notifications. If not, they must take the total amount of leave notified in one continuous block. The employee can choose when this leave period will begin within 19 days of the date the notification was given to the employer but it cannot start sooner than the initial notified start date. If they don't, the leave will begin on the starting date stated in the original notification.

Template letters

Employers may wish to develop a policy that sets out the rules and procedures for applying for and taking Shared Parental Leave. 

Some organisations offer enhanced maternity rights, giving mothers maternity pay above the statutory minimum, for example 26 weeks' full pay followed by 13 weeks SMP. Organisations may wish to "mirror" their maternity enhancements in any Shared Parental Leave policy.

There is no established statutory requirement to mirror occupational maternity schemes when a Shared Parental Leave scheme is established. The important thing is that within a Shared Parental Leave scheme, men and women are treated equally and paid at the same rate in the same circumstances.

Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Leave

For information on maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay see:

Training and further information

Acas provides training courses on a range of employment law and best practice. This topic is addressed in Acas Employment Law Update training. You may also benefit from viewing our Employment Law Update timetable.