Is Shared Parental Leave the right choice for me – as a mother?

Is SPL the right choice for me – as a mother?

This information is to help you understand the pros and cons of SPL which is a new option for parents/partners to enable them to share leave/pay in a child’s first year.

Employed mothers (and adopters) remain entitled to 52 weeks statutory maternity/adoption leave and, if they qualify (having worked for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the expected date or by the week they are matched for adoption), 39 weeks statutory maternity pay (SMP) or statutory adoption pay (SAP). A mother/adopter can shorten her leave/pay to create SPL for her partner and/or herself. See http://www.yesslaw.org.uk/fact-sheets/shared-parental-leave/

Key points

  •  Not all employees are entitled to SPL. It is only available to employees who have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due and who have a working partner.
  •  If you are not entitled to maternity leave, because you are self-employed or have been dismissed, you can transfer your SMP or maternity allowance to your partner to enable him (or her) to take SPL (if s/he is an employee who has worked long enough with his (or her) employer).
  •  You must take 2 weeks’ maternity leave immediately after the birth.
  •  SPL (of up to 50 weeks) must be taken in the year after the birth.
  •  You can only take SPL if your partner satisfies an employment and earnings test, ie has worked for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the due date and earned £30 per week on average in 13 of the 66 weeks.
  •  It is your choice whether to give up part of your maternity leave and/or pay to enable your partner (and/or you) to take SPL.
  •  You can remain on maternity leave while your partner is on SPL (provided you have given notice to your employer to give up part of your maternity leave).

Reasons why SPL might be good for you and your partner

  1. You can share time off in the first year with your partner. Leave can be taken at the same time or separately, or a mixture of both.
  2.  If you are self-employed, you cannot take SPL but you can transfer part of your maternity allowance to your partner to enable him/her to take SPL (if s/he has worked long enough for the same employer – see above).
  3.  SPL can be take in three separate chunks so that you can work in between taking leave. If your employer agrees, you can work for 20 shared-parental-leave-in-touch (SPLIT) days during your leave, in addition to 10 keeping-in-touch (KIT) days during maternity leave. Your employer may agree to more than 3 chunks of SPL although they do not have to.

Financial considerations

Relevant factors include which partner is the higher earner and whether either employer offers enhanced maternity or shared parental pay. Consider what pay you will receive on maternity leave and SPL.

  • The first 6 weeks of statutory maternity pay is 90% of earnings or £139.58, whichever is lower. Shared parental pay is only paid at a maximum flat rate of £139.58 (or 90% of earnings if this is lower).
  •  If your employer pays more than statutory maternity pay, but does not enhance shared parental pay, it is best to remain on maternity leave for as long as you receive enhanced maternity pay.

Sharing the care

If you and your partner want to share the care of your child in the first year, you have to give up some of your maternity leave (and/or pay) to create SPL. You can then decide whether:

  • You want to stay on maternity leave (but for less than the full 52 weeks) while your partner takes SPL (ie the leave you have given up) or
  • You want to move to SPL (at some stage) because of its flexibility.

For example, if you want time off together, you could take maternity leave for the first 25 weeks and your partner could take 25 weeks SPL at the same time; or you can take time off at separate times or a mixture of both – all in the first year.

Word of warning: Once you have decided to give up your maternity leave to take SPL, you cannot (usually) change your mind. If your partner is undecided about taking leave or your relationship is uncertain, consider delaying making a decision until things are clearer.

Working during the first year?

If you want to work in the first year, for financial reasons or because you have concerns about your job, you can if you opt for SPL. If you remain on maternity leave the maximum you can work is 10 KIT days. If you take SPL you can:

  • Take leave in separate chunks, working in between. The downside is that you will lose some of the 50 weeks (unless your partner uses them as SPL); SPL must be taken in the first year.
  • Work up to 20 days during SPL (SPLIT days) with your employer’s agreement
  • Take some paid holiday during the first year.

Protection from discrimination

When on maternity leave you must not be treated unfavourably because of your maternity leave absence. This would be unlawful discrimination. There is protection from dismissal and detriment for employees taking SPL, but the protection from discrimination is not as good.

What are the main qualifying “tests” to qualify for SPL?

An employee can only take SPL if s/he satisfied the continuity of employment test. The partner must also be a worker and satisfy the employment and earnings test.

  1. The continuity of employment test: the employee must have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks at the end of the 15thweek before the EWC (expected week of childbirth) and remain employed until the week before the start of SPL
  2. The employment and earnings test: the partner must have worked on an employed or self-employed basis in 26 of the last 66 weeks earning at least £30 per week on average for 13 of those weeks.

Top tips

  •  Check whether you and your partner are entitled to SPL
  •  Check your employer’s maternity and shared parental leave policy to see if you are entitled to enhanced pay during leave
  •  Discuss with your partner whether, and how, you want to share the leave, given your financial position and any enhanced pay offered by either employer
  •  Discuss with your employer how you want to take your leave so that the employer can plan cover for when you are off
  •  You must give at least 8 weeks’ notice before you can take SPL, but give as much as you can. There are detailed notification requirements and forms to complete http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4911
  •  If you are made redundant during SPL (or maternity leave) you are entitled to be offered a suitable alternative job – in preference to others at risk
  •  If you return after a period of leave (whether maternity, paternity, adoption or SPL) of up to 26 weeks you are entitled to return to the same job you were doing immediately before that period of leave. Up to 4 weeks’ unpaid parental leave is not taken into account. This means that if you work in between SPL periods you should make sure you are doing the same job, as this is the job to which you will return after leave ends.

Camilla Palmer: cpalmer@yesslaw.org.uk


About SPLash

SPLash (SPL advice on sharing) has been created by an alliance of organisations with expertise in employment law and issues affecting parents at work. Its purpose is the sharing of knowledge and best practice on shared parental leave.

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