Shared parental leave

Overview

Jo Broadbent, Hogan Lovells Last Modified  19 October 2016

Shared parental leave is available for babies with an expected week of childbirth (EWC) starting on or after 5 April 2015. The new right is governed by the Shared parental leave and leave curtailment (amendment) regulations 2015.

A woman who is eligible for shared parental leave has the right to bring her maternity leave and pay period to an end early and convert the outstanding period of maternity leave and pay into a period of shared parental leave and pay that can be taken by either parent. Shared parental leave can be taken in a more flexible way than maternity leave. It does not have to be a single continuous period; leave periods can be as little as a week and both parents can be absent from work at the same time.

Shared parental leave must be taken before the child's first birthday and is in addition to the right to unpaid parental leave under the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999. The pre-existing right to additional paternity leave has been replaced by the new right to shared parental leave.

A parent taking adoption leave also has the right to convert a period of adoption leave into a period of shared parental leave which either parent can take in a flexible way if they have a child placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015. 

Key points

  • The right to shared parental leave applies to babies with an expected week of childbirth starting on or after 5 April 2015.
  • The default position remains that a woman is entitled to 52 weeks' maternity leave and 39 weeks' maternity pay.
  • A woman on maternity leave can commit to bringing her maternity leave and pay period to an end early. The balance of the maternity leave and pay period becomes available for either parent to take as shared parental leave and pay.
  • For the tax year beginning April 2016 statutory shared parental pay rate will stay at £139.58 a week. The rate remains unchanged because of the low inflation rate to September 2015.
  • Shared parental leave can be taken in periods of a week or multiples of a week.
  • A parent can take a period of shared parental leave at the same time as the other parent is on maternity leave or shared parental leave.
  • A parent will only qualify to take shared parental leave if the other parent meets basic work and earnings criteria and the parent taking the leave meets the individual eligibility criteria (such as having 26 weeks' continuous service at the 15th week before the EWC and remaining in the same employment). 
  • An employer must have at least eight weeks' notice of any period of shared parental leave.
  • Each parent can make up to three requests for periods of shared parental leave.  Whether the employer can refuse a request depends on whether the employee has asked for a continuous or discontinuous period of leave.
  • Shared parental leave has to be taken before the child's first birthday.
  • Rights during a period of shared parental leave mirror those of a woman on maternity leave: all terms and conditions of employment continue except those relating to remuneration.
  • If employees suffer any detrimental treatment or are dismissed as a result of taking or asking to take shared parental leave they can bring a complaint to the employment tribunal.

Future developments

Shared leave for grandparents
In October 2015 the government announced its intention to extend shared parental leave and pay to working grandparents looking after grandchildren under the age of one. There were plans to consult on the new arrangement in the first half of 2016, with a view to changing the law by 2018, but so far no consultation has emerged from government.