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Acas Advice on Shared Parental Leave

Published: 09/12/14

The new law on Shared Parental Leave will be introduced on 1 December (subject to Parliamentary approval).

Parents whose children are due to be born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015, and who satisfy eligibility criteria related to their working status, will have access to a fully flexible system of parental leave.

Parents will be able to take up to 50 weeks of Shared Parental Leave in total, and can share it as they want.

The key points of the new law are:

  • Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of Maternity Leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance.
  • If they choose to do so, an eligible mother can end her maternity leave early and, with her partner or the child's father, opt for Shared Parental Leave instead of Maternity Leave. If they both meet the qualifying requirements, they will need to decide how they want to divide their Shared Parental Leave and Pay entitlement.
  • Paid Paternity Leave of two weeks will continue to be available to fathers and a mother's or adopter's partner, however Additional Paternity Leave will be removed (Shared Parental Leave will replace it).
  • Adopters will have the same rights as other parents to Shared Parental leave and pay.

To qualify, the mother or adopter must be entitled to, and have given notice to curtail their, maternity or adoption entitlements and must share the main responsibility for caring for the child with the child's father or their partner. For a parent to be eligible to take Shared Parental Leave they must be an employee and they must pass the continuity of employment test. In turn, the other parent in the family must meet the employment and earnings test.

  • Continuity of employment test: the person must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which the child is due (or at the week in which an adopter was notified of having been matched with a child or adoption) and is still employed in the first week that Shared Parental Leave is to be taken.
  • Employment and earnings test: the person must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date and have earned above the maternity allowance threshold of £30 week in 13 of the 66 weeks.

Where both parents satisfy the continuity of employment test requirement they will both be able to make use of the pot of Shared Parental Leave. The regulations do mean though that a family can still use Shared Parental Leave even when only one parent actually meets the eligibility criteria. For example, a self-employed parent will not be entitled to take Shared Parental leave but they could still pass the employment and earnings test allowing the other parent in the family to qualify.

It will be for the mother or adopter to decide whether to just use their maternity or adoption entitlement or use Shared Parental Leave at some point. However, a mother or adopter does not have to have actually ended their maternity or adoption entitlements for Shared Parental Leave to start for their partner. Provided the mother or adopter has given advance notice reducing their maternity or adoption entitlements their partner can start to take Shared Parental Leave. This means their partner could begin to take Shared Parental Leave while the mother or adopter is still on maternity or adoption leave.

Shared Parental Leave may be taken at any time within the period which begins on the date the child is born/date of the placement and ends 52 weeks after that date. An employee is entitled to submit three separate notices to book leave. Leave must be taken in complete weeks and may be taken either in a continuous period, which an employer cannot refuse, or in a discontinuous period, which the employer can refuse. If a request for discontinuous leave is refused then the total amount of leave requested in the notice will automatically become a continuous block unless it is withdrawn.

Shared Parental Pay

Statutory Shared parental pay is paid at £138.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

If the mother or adopter curtails their entitlement to maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance before they have used their full entitlement then Shared parental pay can be claimed for any remaining weeks.

To qualify for Shared Parental Pay a parent must, as well as passing the continuity of employment test also have earned an average salary of the lower earnings limit of £111 for the 8 weeks' prior to the 15th week before the expected due date or matching date. Like Shared Parental Leave the other parent in the family must meet the employment and earnings test.

Maternity leave and pay

An employed mother will continue to have the right to take up to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave.

Ante-natal appointments

All pregnant employees are entitled to reasonable time off with pay for antenatal care made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner. Except for the first appointment, employees should show the employer, if requested, an appointment card or other documents showing that an appointment has been made.

Fathers and partners of pregnant women are entitled to unpaid time off to attend two ante-natal appointments. Employers may allow this time off with pay under the terms and condition of employment.

Intended parents in a surrogacy case who meet the conditions set out under the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Act 2008 will also have the right to unpaid leave to attend up to two antenatal appointments.

Paternity leave and pay

Paternity leave will continue to be available for fathers and partners. This will be a period of one or two weeks which must be used in a single block of leave and taken within 56 days of the birth. If the child is born early paternity leave can be taken within the period from the actual date of birth up to 56 days after the expected date of birth.

Additional paternity leave and pay will no longer be available for babies due after 5th April 2015.

Notification of Shared Parental Leave

If an employee wishes to take Shared Parental Leave they must provide their employer with a notice of entitlement to take Shared Parental Leave. The notice must be given at least eight weeks before the start of a period of Shared Parental Leave and must include how:

  • much leave is available
  • much leave they are entitled to take
  • much leave the parent is intending to take
  • they expect to take it.

Any notice booking Shared Parental Leave must be given at least eight weeks before the leave is due to start.

Each eligible parent can give their employer up to 3 separate notices booking or varying leave. Each notice can be for a block of leave, or the notice may be for a pattern of "discontinuous" leave involving different periods of leave. If a parent asks for a continuous block of leave the employer is required to agree to it. However, where the notification is for discontinuous blocks of leave the employer can refuse and require that the total weeks of leave in the notice be taken in a single continuous block. It is therefore beneficial for the employee and employer to discuss and attempt to agree a way in which the different blocks of leave can be taken.

Discuss your intentions sooner rather than later

Having an early and informal discussion can provide an opportunity for both the employee and employer to talk about their preference regarding when Shared Parental Leave is taken. Employers can use this discussion as an opportunity to point out the different options such as maternity, paternity leave (or adoption leave), and can ensure the employee is aware of their statutory rights or any contractual schemes the employer has in place. It can also be an opportunity to discuss when any discontinuous leave can be best accommodated.

Discussing a notification for Shared Parental Leave

Once a notification for a period of leave has been received an employer may wish to consider:

  • is the notification for leave one continuous block or two or more weeks of discontinuous leave?
  • what cover will be needed for the employee's absence?
  • will a discussion with the employee be beneficial at this time?
  • is any modification to a discontinuous leave request necessary?


Depending on the circumstances involved, there are four outcomes available to an employer once they have received, considered and discussed a Shared Parental Leave notification. It is important to note an employer cannot refuse a notification for continuous leave.

A) Confirm a continuous leave period or accept a discontinuous leave request.

B) Agree a modification to a leave request (an employee is under no obligation to modify a continuous leave notice and should never be put under any pressure to do so).

C) Refuse a discontinuous leave notification.

D) Whilst it is not good practice and should be avoided, it is possible for an employer to make no response to a leave notification.

For outcomes C and D above, the employee can withdraw their notification on or before the 15th day after the notification was originally made and it will not count as one of their three notifications. If not, they must take the total amount of leave notified in one continuous block. The employee can choose when this leave period will begin within 19 days of the date the notification was given to the employer but it cannot start sooner than the initial notified start date. If they don't, the leave will begin on the starting date stated in the original notification.

Developing a policy

Employers may wish to develop a policy that sets out the rules and procedures for applying for and taking Shared Parental Leave. Any policy should be fair and consistent, and should meet at least the statutory minimum requirements in the legislation.

It would be good practice when drafting or updating any policy to consult with employees over the proposed policy as this will help to ensure it works for both employees and the organisation. Once agreed the policy should be communicated to all employees and managers given training.

Some organisations offer enhanced maternity rights, giving mothers maternity pay above the statutory minimum, for example 26 weeks' full pay. Organisations may wish to "mirror" their maternity enhancements in any Shared Parental Leave policy. There is no established statutory requirement to mirror occupational maternity schemes when a Shared Parental Leave scheme is established. The important thing is that within a Shared Parental Leave scheme, men and women are treated equally and paid at the same rate in the same circumstances.

This information was taken from the Acas website, where there is lots of supplementary information to download including a great infographic; a good practice guide; a process guide, plus several letter templates.

Acas is also holding a number of training sessions covering this subject – if as an employer you feel you need more information – see the Acas website for further details or click this link:


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