Fathers are not taking advantage of rules that allow them to share leave with their partners, according to research published a year after the rights came into force, as reported by The Guardian.
A government assessment suggested 285,000 working fathers would be eligible to take the leave, but only 2% to 8% would do so. This compares with about nine in 10 fathers in Sweden and Norway, where between 80% and 100% of their earnings are replaced while they are on leave.
The employment legislation for Shared Parental Leave (SPL) came into force on 1 December 2014. SPL is available for parents of children whose expected week of childbirth (EWC) or adoption begins on or after 5 April 2015. The rules allow employees to take a maximum of 52 weeks leave following the birth or adoption of a child, which can be shared between both parents.
Each parent qualifies separately for Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP).
If you’re eligible you can start SPL and take leave in separate blocks, instead of taking it all in one go like maternity or adoption leave. You can also share the leave between you if you’re both eligible.
Shared Parental Leave
To qualify for SPL, you must share responsibility for the child with one of the following:
- your husband, wife, civil partner or joint adopter
- the child’s other parent
- your partner (if they live with you and the child)
You must also:
- have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (or by the date you’re matched with your adopted child)
- stay with the same employer while you take SPL
During the 66 weeks before the week the baby’s due (or the week you’re matched with your adopted child) your partner must:
- have been working for at least 26 weeks (they don’t need to be in a row)
- have earned at least £390 in total in 13 of the 66 weeks (add up the highest paying weeks, they don’t need to be in a row)
This can be as an employee, worker or self-employed person. Your partner doesn’t have to be working at the date of birth or when you start SPL or ShPP.
Statutory Shared Parental Pay
You can get ShPP if you’re an employee and one of the following applies:
- you’re eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP)
- you’re eligible for Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) and your partner is eligible for SMP, Maternity Allowance (MA) or SAP
You can also get ShPP if you’re a worker and you’re eligible for SMP or SPP.
- When you can start
You can only start Shared Parental Leave (SPL) or Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) once the child has been born or placed for adoption. The mother (or the person getting adoption leave or pay) must do one of the following:
- end any maternity or adoption leave by returning to work
- give their employer ‘binding notice’ (a decision that can’t normally be changed) of the date when they plan to end any maternity or adoption leave
They must also end any maternity pay, Maternity Allowance or adoption pay. If they don’t get leave (eg they’re an agency worker or self-employed) they must still end any pay.
The mother or adopter must give at least 8 weeks’ notice to their employer (for maternity or adoption pay) or to Jobcentre Plus (for Maternity Allowance) if they haven’t returned to work.
You can start SPL or ShPP while your partner is still on maternity or adoption leave and pay as long as they’ve given binding notice to end it.
A mother can’t return to work before the end of the compulsory 2 weeks of maternity leave following the birth (4 weeks if she works in a factory). If you’re adopting the person claiming adoption pay must take at least 2 weeks of adoption leave.
Cancelling the decision to end maternity or adoption leave
The mother or adopter may be able to change their decision to end maternity or adoption leave early if both:
- the planned end date hasn’t passed
- they haven’t already returned to work
One of the following must also apply:
- you find out during the 8-week notice period that neither of you is eligible for SPL or ShPP
- the mother or adopter’s partner has died
- the mother tells her employer less than 6 weeks after the birth (and she gave notice before the birth)
What you'll get
If you’re eligible and you or your partner end maternity or adoption leave and pay (or Maternity Allowance) early, then you can:
- take the rest of the 52 weeks of maternity or adoption leave as Shared Parental Leave (SPL)
- take the rest of the 39 weeks of maternity or adoption pay (or Maternity Allowance) as Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)
How much pay you’ll get
ShPP is paid at the rate of £139.58 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, 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).
Applying for leave and pay
You must give notice to your employer in writing if you want to start Shared Parental Leave (SPL) or Pay (ShPP). You can give notice for leave and pay at the same time if you’re eligible to get both.
You can give notice using forms created by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).
You can change your mind later about how much SPL or ShPP you plan to take and when you want to take it. You must give notice of any changes at least 8 weeks before the start of any leave.
For further information or to download shared parental leave forms (for maternity) and other useful documents visit https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay/overview
Information sourced via gov.uk, The Guardian & The BBC