How does shared parental leave operate?

Shared parental leave is aimed at giving parents more flexibility over how they share childcare between them during the first year of their child's life. They are able to take it in turns to have periods of leave to care for the child, and/or take leave at the same time as each other.

A mother who meets the eligibility requirements can bring her maternity leave to an end and choose to take shared parental leave with her partner, who must also meet the relevant eligibility requirements. Up to 50 weeks' shared parental leave can be shared between the parents. The amount of shared parental leave that the parents can take between them is 52 weeks, minus the amount of maternity leave taken by the mother. The compulsory maternity leave period is reserved for the mother, therefore the mother cannot curtail her maternity leave until two weeks (or four weeks for factory workers) after the birth. However, the mother's partner can begin a period of shared parental leave at any time from the date of the child's birth. All leave must be taken within the first 52 weeks following the birth.

The leave does not have to be taken in one continuous block; employees can return to work and then take a further period of shared parental leave. If an employee gives his or her employer a notice requesting discontinuous blocks of leave, the employer has the option to refuse this request, in which case the employee must take the leave requested in one block, withdraw the request or agree alternative dates with the employer. However, an employee can submit up to three separate notices requesting periods of leave, which could have the effect of enabling the employee to take three separate blocks of leave without the employer being able to refuse this.