How many people are taking Shared Parental Leave?
Shared Parental Leave was introduced in 2014 and entitles parents, of children born on or after 5 April 2015, to share up to 50 weeks of the mother’s Maternity Leave with their partner if they both qualify for Shared Parental Leave.
By law, a mother is not able to work for the first two weeks after childbirth, or four weeks if she works in a factory, and this initial period is known as Compulsory Maternity Leave.
Maternity Leave, for a mother, is for a maximum of 52 weeks. The earliest that Maternity Leave can start is the 11th week before expected childbirth and this leave is split into two periods
- Ordinary Maternity Leave (This is the first 26 weeks of the Maternity Leave)
- Additional Maternity Leave (This is a maximum of 26 weeks following Ordinary Maternity Leave)
If the mother returns to work before the end of the full 52 weeks of Maternity Leave then she can share any remaining Leave with her partner, if they are eligible for Shared Parental Leave.
Shared Parental Leave can be taken by both the Mother and her partner at the same time or at different times but must take place within one year of the child’s birth.
By way of example; if a mother takes only her ordinary Maternity Leave and returns to work after 26 weeks of Maternity Leave, she will have 13 weeks of Shared Parental Leave, as will her partner (the remaining 26 weeks of Maternity Leave being divided between the mother and partner) to take within one year of the child’s birth and this can be taken by the mother and her partner at the same time or at a separate times.
As with Maternity Leave; there are eligibility criteria for Shared Parental Leave to apply and the correct notices need to be given to your employer in order to take the entitlement.
A recent CIPD ‘Labour Market Outlook’ Survey of 1,050 employers found that only 21% of those employers had received requests from male employees to take up Shared Parental Leave (between April 2015 and July 2016).
Of the 1,050 employers surveyed, only 353 firms had male employees that were eligible for Shared Parental Leave however 56% of those firms did not receive any requests for Shared Parental Leave to be taken and, on average, only 5% of those eligible had taken the opportunity for Shared Parental Leave.
Of the 1,050 employers surveyed, 357 firms had female employees that were eligible for Shared Parental Leave but 67% of those firms did not receive any requests for Shared Parental Leave to be taken and, on average, 8% of those eligible had taken the opportunity for Shared Parental Leave.
Why are so few taking up the opportunity for Shared Parental Leave?
The main reason that most employees will be turning down the opportunity of Shared Parental Leave will come down to finances.
On Maternity Leave, a mother is entitled, if eligible, to 90% of her usual pay, per week, in the first six weeks of Maternity Leave and in the next 33 weeks she is entitled to £139.58 a week or 90% of her usual pay if this is lower than £139.58 per week.
Shared Parental Leave is paid at £139.58 per week or 90% of the usual pay if this is lower than £139.58 per week for a period of 37 weeks.
This means that if the mother would have been entitled to a higher rate for the first six weeks but uses some of that as Shared Parental Leave, then the lower Shared Parental Leave rate will be payable.
If you would like more information on Maternity Leave and Maternity Pay then check out Leah’s book – Baby Steps: a Guide to Maternity Leave and Maternity Pay.
Leah Waller is a solicitor and Head of the Employment Department at Lennons. She undertakes all areas of Employment Law and advises both employees and employers on redundancy, employee restructure, dismissals and employment contracts.
For assistance on employment issues, please contact our Employment department on 01494 773377 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.