"Shared parental leave and pay" introduced

Implementation date: 5 April 2015

The Children and Families Act 2014 introduces a new system of shared parental leave and pay that parents can access so that, where they want to, they can share caring responsibilities.

Key details

The Children and Families Act 2014 introduces shared parental leave and statutory shared parental pay for parents and adopters. Mothers' entitlement to 52 weeks' maternity leave and 39 weeks' statutory maternity pay remains, as does fathers' entitlement to two weeks' ordinary paternity leave and pay, but additional paternity leave and additional statutory paternity pay are abolished. The Act, and Regulations made under it, will enable mothers to commit to ending their maternity leave and pay at a future date, and share the untaken balance of leave and pay as shared parental leave with their partner. The amount of shared parental leave to which an employee is entitled will depend on the amount of leave that the other parent has taken in respect of the child.

To be eligible to use the new shared parental leave system, each parent will need to meet qualifying criteria for leave and pay (a minimum level of earnings and length of service will apply).

Employees who wish to end their maternity leave will not need to return to work to convert their untaken maternity leave into shared parental leave; an employee could give her employer notice of the date on which she intends to end her maternity leave and the untaken balance of her maternity leave would then become available immediately as shared parental leave. Accordingly, the employee's partner will be able to start taking shared parental leave while the employee is still on maternity leave, meaning that parents will be able to take leave at the same time.

While shared parental leave must be taken in blocks of a minimum of one week, periods of leave can be interspersed with periods of work. However, where an employee requests non-consecutive periods of shared parental leave, the employer will, subject to restrictions, be able to require the employee to take the leave as a single period to start on a day that he or she proposes.

The right to return to the same job will be maintained for employees returning from any period of shared parental leave that totals 26 weeks or less when added to any other periods of maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave taken in relation to the child. If the employee returns after a longer period, the right will be to return to a similar job if it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to allow him or her to return to the same job.

The new system of shared parental leave and pay will come into effect in relation to babies due on or after 5 April 2015.

The latest versions of the Regulations to be published are:

The Children and Families Act 2014 is partly commenced by the Children and Families Act 2014 (Commencement No.3, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Order 2014 (SI 2014/1640)

More from XpertHR
Employment law manual > Family-friendly rights > Pregnancy and maternity leave > Future developments provides further information on shared parental leave.