Equality

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Shared Parental Leave and Pay

5 April 2015

A new system of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Shared Parental Leave Pay (ShPP) has been introduced, aiming to provide greater flexibility in how parents share the care of their child in its first year. It is available to couples with a baby due, or children placed for adoption, on or after 5 April 2015.

mother and baby

Rights

Pregnant employees, working under a contract of employment, are entitled to take up to 52 weeks maternity leave, so long as they follow the rules for telling the employer in advance, as follows:

  • 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave immediately followed by 26 weeks additional maternity leave, regardless of length of service
  • The father has an entitlement of one or to two weeks' paid ordinary Paternity Leave.
  • If you are eligible for SPL you can use it to take leave in blocks separated by periods of work, instead of taking it all in one go.
  • To start SPL or ShPP the mother must end her maternity leave (for SPL) or her Maternity Allowance or maternity pay (for ShPP).
  • Parents can then choose how to split the remaining SPL and ShPP.
  • SPL and ShPP must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday (or within one year of adoption).

Shared parental leave will also be available to employees who are, or expect to be, the parents of a child under a parental order, where the child's expected week of birth begins on or after 5 April 2015.

A pregnant employee who satisfies certain qualifying criteria will be entitled to up to 39 weeks Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) made up as follows:

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks
  • The remaining 33 weeks is paid at the standard weekly rate of £139.58 (from 5 April 2015) or
  • 90% of your average weekly earnings if this is lower than the standard weekly rate.

Duties and Responsibilities

At least 15 weeks before the baby is due, the employee must notify her employer that she is pregnant, when the baby is expected, and the date on which they intend to start their maternity leave.

Once the employee has provided proper notification of her intention to take maternity leave, the employer must respond to her in writing within 28 days. The Employer must acknowledge her intentions and inform her of the latest date on which she must return to work after the maternity leave.

  • The employers may request that the employee produce form MATB1, confirming the Expected Week of Confinement.
  • Employees cannot start their maternity leave until the 11th week before the baby is due, unless the baby is born before then.
  • An employee may carry on working before the baby is born for as long as they like.

If they are absent from work for a pregnancy-related reason within the last four weeks before the baby is due, or if they give birth before they intended to go on leave, then their maternity leave will start automatically.

Pregnant employees who satisfy the qualifying criteria – i.e. that they have worked continuously for at least 26 weeks into the 15th week before the Expected Week of Confinement, and whose average weekly earnings exceed the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions (£112 from 5 April 2015) will be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay. Contractual maternity pay depends on the contract.

During your period of maternity leave – 52 weeks – your employer must continue to give you all non pay benefits.

Employees who decide to take the full entitlement to maternity leave (i.e. 52 weeks); need not give advance notice of their return. They should simply come back on the date notified to them by their employer.

  • If the employee cannot return to work on that date because they are ill, the employee should notify the employer in accordance with the normal rules on sickness absence.
  • If the employee decides not to return from maternity leave at all, they must give the employer notice of their resignation, in accordance with their contract of employment.
  • If the employee returns before the end of her 52 week maternity leave entitlement, she must give eight weeks advance notice. If she doesn’t the employer may postpone her return in order to get that notice.
  • The law does not allow the employee to return to work during the first two weeks after giving birth (four weeks in factories)

Rights on Returning to Work

Employees returning from ordinary maternity leave are entitled to return to the same job, on the same terms and conditions as if they had not been away. This also applies when you return from taking additional maternity leave unless your employer shows that it is not reasonably practical to do so e.g. the job no longer exists. In that case, you should be offered alternative work on terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been absent.

Keeping in Touch Days

Reasonable contact can be made between you and your employer during maternity leave. Also if you and your employee both agree you can do up to 10 days work.

Health in Pregnancy Grant

The Health in Pregnancy Grant has come to an end. It's no longer possible to make new claims for the grant.

This page was originally entitled "Maternity Rights" based on the Work and Families Act 2006, before the changes were introduced in April 2015, for both parents to be able to share leave when a child is born or adopted.