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Shared parental leave

The right to shared parental leave, UK, 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 The right to additional paternity leave has been replaced by the right to shared parental leave.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.

Key points

  • Women remain 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.
  • From 3 April 2022, the statutory shared parental pay rate is £156.66 (see our ‘Statutory rates’ page for historic rates). 
  • 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.

Recent developments 

Government consultation examining family-friendly leave entitlements

A government consultation, released in July 2019, is looking at whether leave entitlements need amending to ensure these reflect modern childcare arrangements and provide equality to parents.

The consultation is considering:

  • whether statutory paternity leave needs changing
  • whether any improvements to shared parental leave could be introduced
  • the introduction of an entitlement to one week's Neonatal Leave and Pay for each week a premature or sick baby is in neonatal care, ensuring the parent can be with the baby once they are released from hospital even though their some of their shared parental leave entitlement will already have been used.

This consultation is running alongside the government examining whether employers should be required to publish their family-friendly leave and pay policies, as well as their flexible working policies.

Protection against redundancy to be extended for new parents

Following a consultation, the government has confirmed that redundancy protection for new parents will be extended. Currently, those on maternity leave who are at risk of redundancy must be offered suitable alternative roles in advance of others. This protection ends once the employee returns to work.

Furture changes will mean that this protection starts from the date the employee informs her employers that she is pregnant, whether verbally or in writing, and will last for a further six month period once the employee returns to work.

The extended protection will also be available to those on adoption leave and shared parental leave, although further guidance will be released on how this works due to the differences in the shared parental leave scheme.

The date these changes take effect has not yet been confirmed. More information can be found in our news article.

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.