Shared parental leave: how does it work?


If you are thinking about taking maternity or paternity leave you can have the opportunity to share it between yourself and your partner. This is called shared parental leave (SPL). There are quite a lot of specific rules and criteria for SPL which are outlined in detail on the GOV.UK website.

In this article, we explain what SPL is, how you can apply for it and how much you can expect to receive for shared parental pay (SPP).

What is shared parental leave?

Couples who are in work and bringing up a child together can share leave following the birth or adoption of their child. Parents can take leave in their child’s first year at different times, or ‘double up’ by taking leave at the same time.

These employment rights apply to those who are adopting, same-sex couples, cohabiting couples, and couples bringing up a child together even if the baby is from a previous relationship. Flexibility means that SPL does not have to be taken all in one go. You can book up to three blocks of leave in the course of the child’s first year.

Am I eligible for shared parental leave?

Each parent qualifies separately for SPL and SPP. 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 or your partner must be eligible for maternity pay or leave, adoption pay or leave or maternity allowance. 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 do not 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 do not need to be in a row)

Your partner does not have to be working at the date of birth or when you start SPL or SPP.

Am I eligible for shared parental pay?

You can receive SPP if you’re an employee and one of the following applies:

  • You are eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP)
  • You are eligible for Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) and your partner is eligible for SMP, Maternity Allowance (MA) or SAP

How much can I receive for shared parental pay?

SPP is paid at the rate of £172.48 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

This is the same as SMP except that during the first 6 weeks SMP is paid at 90% of whatever you earn (with no maximum). Edapt has produced another article which outlines the entitlements which come with maternity leave.

What is a practical example of SPP?

A woman decides to start her maternity leave 4 weeks before the due date and gives notice that she’ll start SPL from 10 weeks after the birth (taking a total of 14 weeks maternity leave). She normally earns £200 a week.

She’s paid £180 (90% of her average weekly earnings) as SMP for the first 6 weeks of maternity leave, then £172.48 a week for the next 8 weeks. Once she goes onto SPL, she’s still paid £172.48 a week.

Some more examples of how SPP practically works can be found on Teachers’ Shared Parental Leave website.

How does this work in practice?

A mother and her partner are both eligible for SPL and SPP. The mother ends her maternity leave and pay after 12 weeks, leaving 40 weeks available for SPL and 27 weeks available for SPP. The parents can choose how to split this.SPL and SPP must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday (or within one year of adoption).

When can I start SPL?

You can only start SPL or SPP once the child has been born or placed for adoption. The mother (or the person getting adoption leave) must either:

  • Return to work, which ends any maternity or adoption leave
  • Give their employer ‘binding notice’ of the date when they plan to end their leave (you cannot normally change the date you give in binding notice)

You can start SPL while your partner is still on maternity or adoption leave as long as they have given binding notice to end it. You can give binding notice and say when you plan to take your SPL at the same time.

You can calculate on the GOV.UK website to see whether you can receive SPL and SPP.

How do I apply for SPL and SPP

To receive SPL or SPP you must:

  • Follow the rules for starting SPL and SPP
  • Give your employer at least 8 weeks’ written notice of your leave dates

You can change your mind later about how much SPL or SPP 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. Your partner must apply to their own employer if they also want SPL or SPP.

Your employer can ask you for more information within 14 days of you applying for SPL or SPP. They can ask for:

  • A copy of the birth certificate
  • A declaration of the place and date of birth (if the birth hasn’t been registered yet)
  • The name and address of your partner’s employer or a declaration that your partner has no employer

If you are adopting, your employer can ask for the:

  • Name and address of the adoption agency
  • Date you were matched with the child
  • Date the child will be start to live with you
  • Name and address of your partner’s employer or a declaration that your partner has no employer

You must give this information within 14 days of being asked for it.

How do I book blocks of leave?

You can book up to 3 separate blocks of SPL instead of taking it all in one go, even if you aren’t sharing the leave with your partner. If your partner is also eligible for SPL, you can take up to 3 blocks of leave each. You can take leave at different times or both at the same time.

You must tell your employer about your plans for leave when you apply for SPL You can change these plans later but you must give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice before you want to begin a block of leave.

If your employer agrees, you can split blocks into shorter periods of at least a week.

How does this practically work?

A mother finishes her maternity leave at the end of October and takes the rest of her leave as SPL. She shares it with her partner, who is also eligible. They each take the whole of November as their first blocks of SPL. The partner then returns to work.

The mother also returns to work in December. She gives her employer notice that she will go on leave again in February, this is her second block of SPL. Her employer agrees to a work pattern of 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off during the block.

What are SPLIT days?

You and your partner can each work up to 20 days while you are taking SPL. These are called ‘shared parental leave in touch’ (or SPLIT) days.

These days are in addition to the 10 ‘keeping in touch’ days available to those on maternity or adoption leave.

What are ‘keeping in touch days?’

You can work up to 10 days during maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave. These days are called keeping in touch days. Keeping in touch days are optional, both the employee and employer need to agree to them. The type of work and pay you get should be agreed before they come into work. Your right to maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave and pay is not affected by taking keeping in touch days.

Keeping in touch and SPLIT days are optional. Both you and your employer must agree to them.

Do my employment rights stay the same while on parental leave?

Your employee rights are not usually affected if you take maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave. Your employment terms and conditions are protected and you should be entitled to any pay rises and improvements in terms and conditions given during the leave.

Pension contributions usually stop if a period of leave is unpaid, unless your contract says otherwise. For example, during unpaid periods of maternity leave or parental leave.

Can I be made redundant when on SPL?

You have the same redundancy rights as your colleagues while on maternity, adoption, paternity or paternal leave.

You have the right to be offered any suitable alternative job if they are selected for redundancy (even if other colleagues are more suitable for the role) while on maternity, adoption or paternity leave.

You can only be made redundant if the employer can clearly justify doing it, for example, if your school closes.

Edapt has written another article on employment rights when it comes to redundancy.

Further information

If you are having difficulties taking shared parental leave at your school please get in contact with us for further support and advice.

Was this article helpful?

The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.