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Shared parental leave policy

Policy purpose and scope

Shared parental leave enables eligible parents to choose how to share the care of their child during the first year of birth or adoption. Its purpose is to give parents more flexibility in considering how to best care for and bond with their child. All eligible employees have a statutory right to take shared parental leave. There may also be an entitlement to statutory shared parental pay.

This policy sets out the rights and responsibilities of employees who wish to take shared parental leave (SPL) and statutory shared parental pay (ShPP) and the procedure to follow.

This policy applies to all employees and is non-contractual.

1. Entitlement

All employed mothers or primary adopters (including intended parents in surrogacy arrangements) are entitled to 52 weeks of statutory maternity or adoption leave regardless of their length of service.

After the two week compulsory maternity leave period, a mother can bring her maternity leave to an end early and convert the balance of leave into shared parental leave. If eligible, both parents then have the choice to share the untaken balance of maternity leave as SPL and pay.

A primary adopter must take two weeks statutory adoption leave after the start date of the adoption leave period before they can bring their adoption leave to an early end and convert the balance into SPL. If eligible, both primary and secondary adopters then have the choice to share the untaken balance of adoption leave as SPL and pay.

If the mother/adopter is not entitled to maternity/adoption leave but is entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP), statutory adoption pay (SAP) or maternity allowance (MA), their entitlement will be reduced to less than the 39 weeks. Their partner may be entitled to up to 50 weeks of SPL. This is calculated by deducting from 52 the number of weeks of SMP, SAP or MA taken by the mother / adopter.

SPL can commence as follows:

  • The mother can take SPL after she has taken the legally required two weeks of maternity leave immediately following the birth of the child
  • The adopter can take SPL after taking at least two weeks of adoption leave
  • The father/partner can take SPL immediately following the birth/placement of the child, but may first choose to exhaust any paternity leave entitlements (as the father/partner cannot take paternity leave or pay once they have taken any SPL or ShPP).

Where a mother/adopter gives notice to curtail their maternity/adoption entitlement, their partner can take SPL whilst they are still using their maternity/adoption entitlement.

SPL will generally commence on the employee's chosen start date specified in their leave booking notice, or in any subsequent variation notice.

If you are eligible to receive it, shared parental pay (ShPP) may be paid for some, or all, of the SPL period.

SPL must end no later than one year after the birth/placement of the child. Any SPL not taken by the first birthday or first anniversary of placement for adoption is lost.

2. Eligibility

Shared parental leave can only be used by two people: the mother/adopter and one of the following:

  • the father of the child (in the case of birth) or
  • the spouse, civil partner or partner of the child's mother / adopter

The mother or primary adopter and their partner need to jointly consider whether they meet the qualifying criteria for SPL. This also applies to prospective parents who have a child placed with them under fostering to adopt arrangements.

Both parents must share the main responsibility for the care of the child at the time of the birth / placement for adoption.

You also must satisfy each of the following criteria:

  • the mother / adopter of the child must be/have been entitled to statutory maternity / adoption leave or if not they must be/have been entitled to statutory maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance and must have ended or given notice to reduce any maternity / adoption entitlements
  • you must still be working for us at the start of each period of SPL
  • you must have a minimum of 26 weeks' continuous service at the end of the 15th week before the child’s expected due date/matching date
  • your partner must meet the ‘employment and earnings test’, requiring them in the 66 weeks leading up to the child’s expected due date/matching date to have worked for at least 26 weeks and earned an average of at least £30 gross per week for any 13 of those 66 weeks (this is correct as of 2016 but may change annually).
  • you must correctly notify us of your entitlement and provide evidence as required

Additionally, in order to qualify for statutory shared parental pay, each parent’s earnings for the eight week period prior to the 15th week before the baby is due must be over the lower earnings limit.

3. Shared parental pay (ShPP)

We offer an enhancement to the statutory minimum ShPP if you meet the SPL qualifying criteria. This mirrors our maternity and adoption pay which means that it will be paid at the same rate as the enhancement applied to our enhanced maternity pay. This is currently 26 weeks full pay followed by 13 weeks at the statutory rate. This totals 39 weeks, but you should bear in mind that two of these weeks must be taken by the mother/primary adopter as a compulsory leave period.

You may be entitled to take up to 37 weeks ShPP while taking SPL and ShPP could be payable during some or all of SPL, depending on the length and timing of the leave.

The number of weeks available will depend on the amount by which the mother/adopter reduces their maternity/adoption pay period or maternity allowance period.

If you are entitled to receive ShPP you must, at least eight weeks before receiving any ShPP, give your manager written notice advising of your entitlement to ShPP. To avoid duplication, if possible, this should be included as part of the notice of entitlement to take SPL. Your manager should inform your HR business partner.

In addition to what must be included in the notice of entitlement to take SPL, any notice that advises of an entitlement for ShPP must include:

  • the start and end dates of any maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance
  • the total amount of ShPP available, the amount of ShPP you and your partner each intend to claim, and a non-binding indication of when you expect to claim ShPP
  • a signed declaration confirming that the information you have given is correct, that you meet, or will meet, the criteria for ShPP and that you will immediately inform your manager should you cease to be eligible

It must be accompanied by a signed declaration from your partner confirming:

  • their agreement to you claiming ShPP and for the organisation to process any ShPP payments to you
  • (in the case where the partner is the mother/adopter) that they have reduced their maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance
  • (in the case where the partner is the mother/adopter) that they will immediately inform their partner should they cease to satisfy the eligibility conditions

4. Notice to end maternity leave

A mother on maternity leave can end her maternity leave either by returning to work or by giving at least eight weeks’ notice in writing to her manager that she will end her leave on a date following the compulsory two week period after the birth of her child.

If the notice to end maternity leave is accompanied by the notification to take SPL, her notice to end maternity leave is binding. There will not be an option to go back onto maternity leave.

The maternity leave will end on that date unless you revoke any notice given prior to childbirth within six weeks following the birth.

Eligible parents can then share the remaining balance of leave as SPL (up to 50 weeks) and pay (up to 37 weeks).

5. Notice to end adoption leave

To end adoption leave, primary adopters on adoption leave must give their manager at least 28 days notice in writing and take the two weeks statutory adoption leave. This notice must also be at least one week before the last day of the statutory adoption leave period.

Adoption leave will end on the date notified.

Eligible parents can then share the remaining balance of leave as SPL (up to 50 weeks) and pay (up to 37 weeks).

6. Revoking a binding notice to end maternity leave

To opt into SPL a birth mother will have given binding notice to end her maternity leave early without taking her full maternity entitlement.

She can revoke a binding notice given prior to childbirth, or up to six weeks following childbirth, providing she has not returned to work. This is because returning will automatically end her maternity leave.

Her partner must immediately inform their employer of any change to their entitlement to SPL.

If a birth mother has revoked her notice in the six weeks following childbirth, she can still submit binding notice to end maternity leave at a later date by giving eight weeks’ notice.

7. Providing notification for SPL

Notice of Intention

If you are entitled and intending to take SPL you must give your manager at least eight weeks written notice that you intend to opt into SPL before you can take any period of leave. Your manager will notify HR.

You should do this by completing a Shared Parental Leave Notice of entitlement and intention form. This includes a non-binding indication of your expected leave pattern to give an early indication to your manager. Early notification will help you and your manager discuss and plan for your patterns of leave sooner.

This notice can be submitted at any time provided that a minimum of eight weeks notice is given for each period of leave. The mother or primary adopter’s maternity or adoption leave and pay period will cease on the day specified on the notice.

You must sign the declaration on the form to confirm:

  • that you meet, or will meet, the eligibility conditions and are entitled to take SPL
  • that the information you have given is accurate
  • if you are not the mother/adopter you must confirm that you are either the father of the child or the spouse, civil partner or partner of the mother/adopter
  • that should you cease to be eligible you will immediately inform the organisation

You must provide your manager with a signed declaration from your partner confirming:

  • their name, address and national insurance number (or a declaration that they do not have a national insurance number)
  • that they are the mother/adopter of the child or they are the father of the child or are the spouse, civil partner or partner of the mother/adopter
  • that they satisfy the employment and earnings qualifying criteria, and had at the date of the child’s birth or placement for adoption the main responsibility for the child, along with you
  • that they consent to the amount of SPL that you intend to take
  • that they consent to the organisation processing the information contained in the declaration form
  • (in the case where the partner is the mother/adopter), that they will immediately inform you should they cease to satisfy the eligibility conditions

Requesting further evidence of eligibility

HR may, within 14 days of the SPL entitlement notification being given, request:

  • the name and business address of your partner’s employer (if your partner is no longer employed or is self employed their contact details must be given instead)
  • in the case of biological parents, a copy of the child's birth certificate (or, where one has not been issued, a declaration as to the time and place of the birth)
  • in the case of an adopted child, documentary evidence of the name and address of the adoption agency, the date on which you were notified of having been matched with the child and the date on which the agency expects to place the child for adoption

In order to be entitled to SPL, you must produce this information within 14 days of the request.

Fostering to adopt

In fostering to adopt arrangements ‘looked after children’ are placed with approved foster parents who agree to adopt the child with little or no notice, if parental rights of the birth parents are terminated.

In these circumstances, you will be unable to provide the usual notice required prior to your absence on adoption leave. However, if you are a prospective parent in this situation, you are encouraged to have early discussions with your manager to help prepare for absences at short notice.

Fraudulent claims

Where there is a suspicion that fraudulent information may have been provided or where we have been informed by HMRC that a fraudulent claim was made, we will investigate the matter further in accordance with our Disciplinary Policy.

8. Booking SPL

In addition to notifying your manager of your entitlement to SPL/ShPP, you must also give notice of the dates you wish to take the leave. This can be given at the same time as your notice of opting-in, or later, as long as it gives the required notice of at least eight weeks before the start of your period of leave. You can use the Shared Parental Leave Notice of Entitlement and Intention Form to give your notice.

It is best to discuss your pattern of leave with your manager in advance of submitting any formal notice of leave. This will give us more time to consider your request and hopefully agree the pattern of leave with you from the start. If you are unable to reach agreement you are entitled to take your SPL in a single block commencing on a date specified by yourself.

You have the right to submit three notifications specifying the leave periods you are intending to take. Each notification may contain either (a) a single period of weeks of leave; or (b) two or more weeks of discontinuous leave, where you intend to return to work between periods of leave.

SPL can only be taken in complete weeks but may begin on any day of the week. For example if a week of SPL begins on a Tuesday it will finish on a Monday.

If you return to work between periods of SPL, the next period of SPL can start on any day of the week.

You must book SPL by giving the correct notification at least eight weeks before the date on which you wish to start the leave and (if applicable) receive ShPP.

Continuous leave notifications

A notification can be for a period of continuous leave, which means notification of a number of weeks taken in a single unbroken period of leave (for example, six weeks in a row).

You have the right to take a continuous block of leave notified in a single notification so long as it does not exceed the total number of weeks of SPL available to you (specified in the notice of entitlement) and we have been given at least eight weeks’ notice.

You may submit up to three separate notifications for continuous periods of leave.

Discontinuous leave notifications

A single notification may also contain a request for two or more periods of discontinuous leave, which means asking for a set number of weeks of leave over a period of time, with breaks between the leave where you return to work. For example, where you will take six weeks of SPL and work every other week for a period of three months.

Your manager and HR business partner will consider a discontinuous leave notification but have the right to refuse it. If the leave pattern is refused, you can either withdraw it within 15 days of giving it, or can take the leave in a single continuous block.

9. Responding to an SPL notification

If you have submitted notice for a continuous single block of leave you will be entitled to take the leave as set out in the notice. This will be confirmed to you in writing.

If your request is for separate blocks of discontinuous leave, it will be carefully considered, weighing up the potential benefits to you and to the organisation against any adverse impact to the business.

Requests for discontinuous leave will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Agreeing to one request will not set a precedent or create the right for another employee to be granted a similar pattern of SPL.

Your manager and HR business partner will discuss your request and will inform you of their decision in writing no later than the 14th day after your leave notification was made.

Your request may be granted in full or in part, for example, your manager and HR may propose a modified version of the request.

If a discontinuous leave pattern is refused you may withdraw your request without detriment on or before the 15th day after the notification was given; or you may take the total number of weeks in the notice in a single continuous block. If you choose to take the leave in a single continuous block, you have until the 19th day from the date the original notification was given to choose when you want the leave period to begin. The leave cannot start sooner than eight weeks from the date the original notification was submitted. If you do not choose a start date then leave will begin on the first leave date requested in the original notification.

10. Variations to arranged SPL

You are permitted to vary or cancel an agreed and booked period of SPL, provided that you advise your manager in writing at least eight weeks before the date of any variation. Any new start date cannot be sooner than eight weeks from the date of the variation request. Your manager will notify HR.

Any variation or cancellation notification made, including notice to return to work early, will usually count as a new notification, reducing your right to book/vary leave by one. However, a change as a result of a child being born early, or as a result of the organisation requesting it be changed, and you being agreeable to the change, will not count as further notification.

Any variation will be confirmed in writing by HR.

11. Terms and conditions during SPL

During the period of SPL, your contract of employment continues in force and you are entitled to receive all contractual benefits except for salary.

Contractual annual leave entitlement will continue to accrue.

Pension contributions will continue to be made during any period when you are receiving ShPP but not during any period of unpaid SPL. Your contributions will be based on actual pay, while the organisation’s contributions will be based on the salary that you would have received had you not been taking SPL.

12. Annual Leave

SPL is granted in addition to your normal annual holiday entitlement. You are reminded that holiday should wherever possible be taken in the year that it is earned. Where an SPL period overlaps two leave years you should consider how your annual leave entitlement can be used by the end of your leave year.

13. Contact during SPL

Before SPL begins, your manager will discuss the arrangements for you to keep in touch during your leave. We reserve the right in any event to maintain reasonable contact with you from time to time during your SPL. This may be to discuss your plans to return to work, training to be given to ease your return to work or simply to update you on developments at work during your absence.

Shared parental leave in touch days

You can agree to work (or attend training) for up to 20 days during SPL without bringing your period of SPL to an end or impacting on your right to claim ShPP for that week.

These are known as "Shared Parental Leave In Touch" or "SPLIT" days. Any work carried out on a day shall constitute a day's work for these purposes. We have no right to require you to carry out any work, and are under no obligation to offer you any work during your SPL. Any work undertaken is a matter for agreement between us and you. If you take a SPLIT day you will receive full pay for any day worked. If a SPLIT day occurs during a week when you are receiving statutory ShPP or nil pay, this will be effectively ‘topped up’ so that you receive full pay for the day in question. Any SPLIT days worked do not extend the period of SPL.

You may, with the agreement of your manager, use SPLIT days to work part of a week during SPL. SPLIT days may also be used to assist your gradual return to work towards the end of a long period of SPL or to trial a possible flexible working pattern.

14. Returning to work after SPL

You will have been formally advised in writing by HR of the end date of any period of SPL. You are expected to return on the next working day after this date, unless you notify us otherwise. If you are unable to attend work due to sickness or injury, the normal arrangements for sickness absence will apply. In any other case, late return without prior authorisation will be treated as unauthorised absence.

If you wish to return to work earlier than the expected return date, you may provide a written notice to vary the leave and must give your manager and HR business partner at least eight weeks notice of your date of early return. This will count as one of your notifications. If you have already used your three notifications to book and/or vary leave then we do not have to accept the notice to return early but may do if it is considered to be reasonably practicable to do so.

On returning to work after SPL, you are entitled to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions of employment as if you had not been absent if your total maternity / paternity / adoption leave and SPL amounts to 26 weeks or less in aggregate. This is unaffected by unpaid parental leave of up to four weeks being taken as well.

If your maternity/paternity/adoption leave and SPL amounts to 26 weeks or more in aggregate, you are entitled to return to the same job you held before commencing the last period of leave or, if this is not reasonably practicable, to another job which is both suitable and appropriate and on terms and conditions no less favourable.

If you take a period of five weeks of unpaid parental leave, even if the total aggregate weeks of maternity/paternity/adoption and SPL do not exceed 26 weeks, you will be entitled to return to the same job you held before commencing the last period of leave or, if this is not reasonably practicable, to another job which is suitable and appropriate and on terms and conditions no less favourable.

Flexible working

If you wish to continue working on your return from SPL but would find it difficult to do this on a full time basis, we will seriously consider any written request to vary your work pattern, eg to part time or job sharing.

We will treat your request as sympathetically as possible, however we are not obliged to accommodate all requests.

For more information see the Flexible Working Policy

15. Leaving The Pensions Regulator

If you leave our employment during a period of SPL you are no longer eligible for SPL and pay, however you are still entitled to receive ShPP for any booked periods and to receive ShPP after your employment has ended unless you are moving to new employment.

If you are entitled to enhanced ShPP and decide not to return to work at the end of SPL you are required to give the period of notice stated in your contract of employment. You will be required to repay the difference between the enhanced rate of ShPP and the minimum level ShPP to which you would have been entitled.

If salary has been paid during the SPL period you must return to work for at least three months or refund the salary payments that are in excess of the minimum level ShPP. If you worked full time prior to SPL but return on a part time basis the three month requirement will be increased in direct proportion.

If you are made redundant whilst on SPL we will continue to pay ShPP for the full period unless you commence a new job.

16. Grievance

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly whilst taking or trying to take shared parental leave you should first try to resolve your concerns with your manager and HR. If unsuccessful, you can bring a formal grievance using the Grievance Policy.