The world has woken up to the fact that some parents want to spend equal time off at home caring for their baby once they arrive.
The government has bought into this, recently introducing a new statutory parental leave and payment system, which lets parents share parental leave in those first few months (or year) of their new arrival’s life.
What is it?
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) is offered to you and your partner. It must be taken between your baby’s birth and first birthday.
How it works
If you are eligible for maternity leave, you can end it before the full 52 weeks and, with your little one’s dad, or your partner, take untaken weeks as Shared Parental Leave instead of Maternity Leave.
For you or your partner to be entitled to Statutory Shared Parental Pay, you must be entitled to either Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance and have ended the period early (before the full 39 weeks).
However you both need to meet certain qualifying requirements (more on that later) and you will also will need to decide how you want to divide your Shared Parental Leave and Pay entitlement.
Fathers and partners can take shared parental leave immediately after paternity leave when both parents are off work together or when the mother has returned to work.
Fathers and partners can take SPL at any time after the two week paternity leave period up to 52 weeks from the birth. A father or the mother’s partner cannot take SPL before paternity leave as s/he will lose the right to paternity leave.
If you are not entitled to maternity leave, because you are self-employed or you are an agency worker, but you are entitled to Maternity Allowance or Statutory Maternity Pay, you can end this early and create and entitlement for your partner to take Shared Parental Leave, if he (or she) is employed.
You can also decide to pick and mix the time you have off and share – for example you can go back to work for part of the shared leave time, then take leave and then go back. Some parents can also choose to take time off together.
Who is eligible?
In order to qualify for ShPP you need to meet the continuity of employment test and your partner meets the employment and earnings test.
Average earnings of at least £120 per week (April 2021 – April 2022) during the calculation period (8 weeks if you are paid weekly or 2 months if you are paid monthly before the end of the 15th week before your baby is due).
This is the same as the qualifying conditions for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP). This means that if you qualify for SMP or SPP, you will also qualify for ShPP as long as you are still employed by the same employer up to the start of the week in which you wish to take ShPP.
Note: if the mother does not qualify for SMP, but is getting Maternity Allowance instead, she will not be entitled to ShPP but will meet the employment and earnings test to enable her employed partner to qualify for SPL/ShPP.
ShPP is paid at the flat rate of £156.66 a week (April 2021-April 2022) or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower.
What’s the Continuity of employment test?
The parent taking the leave:
must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which your baby is due.
must also still be employed in the first week that Shared Parental Leave is to be taken.
What is the employment and earnings test?
The other parent must have:
Worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date.
Earned above the maternity allowance threshold
If you both meet these tests you can apply. However, this is where it gets complicated. If you or your partner are self-employed, the self-employed parent won’t be able to apply for Shared Parental leave but could still meet the employment and earnings test allowing the employed parent in the family to qualify. For example, a mum that is entitled to SMP or MA but not maternity leave (maternity leave is only available to employed women. However, self-employed women may be entitled to MA but not SMP or maternity leave.
How much does Shared Parental Pay give me?
To be entitled to Statutory Shared Parental Pay, you must meet the Continuity of Employment Test (see above) and have earned the lower earnings limit in the 8 weeks leading up the beginning of the 15th week before the week of the baby’s due date. Statutory Shared Parental Pay is paid at £151.97 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).
If you choose to take statutory maternity leave but don’t take the full time off then you may be able to take the untaken weeks as shared parental leave.
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
is paid for up to 39 weeks. You get:
90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
£151.97or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks
SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (for example monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.
Maternity Allowance (MA)
The amount you can get depends on your eligibility.
You could get either:
£151.97 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is less) for 39 weeks
£27 a week for 39 weeks
£27 a week for 14 weeks
Maternity Allowance is paid every 2 or 4 weeks.
You can claim Maternity Allowance once you’ve been pregnant for 26 weeks. Payments can start 11 weeks before your baby is due.
Shared parental leave & pay (SPL & ShPP)
Maximum of 50 weeks of leave shareable between the couple; up to 37 weeks of pay at 90% of salary or the flat rate (currently £151.97), whichever is lower
This is the same as Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) except that during the first 6 weeks SMP is paid at 90% of whatever you earn (with no maximum).