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 other half if your baby is due on, or after, 5 April. 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.
Paid Paternity Leave of two weeks will continue to be available to your other half, however Additional Paternity Leave will be abolished and the Shared Parental Leave pay will replace it.
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?
Your baby must be due on or after 5th April 2015.
You must both inform your employer about your plans to take Shared Parental Leave from January 2015 and the parent planning to take the leave must pass the continuity of employment test. In turn, the other parent also has to meet the employment and earnings test.
Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) is only available to a couple where the mum is entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP) or maternity allowance (MA). You must cut short your entitlement to SMP or MA for you to be eligibile for ShPP. ShPP is, in effect, the untaken portion of the 39 weeks of SMP or MA (up to a max of 37 weeks – as mum cannot cut down maternity leave or SMP or MA within 2 weeks of the birth).
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 parentmust have:
- Worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date.
- Earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 week in 13 of the 66 weeks.
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 (currently £111 a week) 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 £151.20 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Statutory Shared Parental Pay will increase to £139.58 per week from 5 April 2015.
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.
Let’s put it into perspective
- 52 weeks
- Day one right for mothers
- Stays the same
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
- 6 weeks paid at 90% of salary
- 33 weeks paid at 90% of salary or the flat rate (currently £138.18), whichever is lower
- Stays the same
Maternity Allowance (MA)
- 39 weeks paid at 90% of salary or the flat rate (currently £138.18), whichever is lower
- Stays the same
Shared parental leave & pay (SPL & ShPP)
- No entitlement
- 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 £138.18), whichever is lower
- Can be taken in chunks with parents returning to work in-between periods
- Both parents can take leave together
- Also available for adopters
What are the ‘traditional’ laws?
Statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance must be taken in the first 39 weeks. Paternity leave and pay must be taken within 56 days of the child’s birth. Additional paternity leave can be taken from when the child is 20 weeks to the eve of the child’s first birthday/ Additional statutory paternity pay can only be taken during the maternity pay period which ends 39 weeks after SMP or Ma was first taken.