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Mothers and Shared Parental Leave

Why take Shared Parental Leave? What’s in it for me; Top tips for mothers This is a guest article by YESS law with help from Working Families and Maternity Action.

Employed mothers remain entitled to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave (SML) and 39 weeks statutory maternity pay (SMP). If eligible for SPL, the mother can choose to transfer some of her maternity leave (and pay) to her partner so he (or she) can take up to 50 weeks’ SPL in the child’s first year. SPL is more flexible than maternity leave, but if you want to take 52 weeks off you may be better off staying on maternity leave.

SPL is good for you if:

  • You want to share the caring of your child with your partner in the first year
  • You want time off together, for example you could take maternity leave for the first 26 weeks and your partner could take 26 weeks SPL at the same time; or you can take time off at separate times or a mixture of both
  • You want to work up to 20 days during SPL (SPLIT days) Note: You can work 10 days during SML (KIT days). Both SPLIT days and KIT days can be worked only with your employer’s agreement
  • You want to take leave in separate chunks, working in between, which can only be done during SPL, not SML. Note: you may lose some of the 50 weeks (unless you share them with your partner) as the weeks you are working will reduce your SPL; SPL can only be taken in the baby’s first year
  • You want to work during leave for financial reasons or to help you keep in touch with work; you can do this with SPL and/or taking SPLIT days
  • You want to take some paid holiday during the first year.

BUT check whether you are better off financially on maternity leave or SPL, for example:

o   You need to remain on maternity leave for the first 6 weeks so you get earnings related SMP (which is normally 90% of your pay for the first 6 weeks); Shared parental pay is paid only at a flat rate throughout.

  • If you are entitled to enhanced maternity pay but  not enhanced shared parental pay, do you need to remain on maternity leave;
  •  Your partner’s financial situation? Does s/he earn more or less than you and is s/he entitled to enhanced shared parental pay?

o   Do you want/need to work during the first year for financial reasons?;

  • Might you want to take paid holiday during any period you are at work?;
  •  Is there a risk that your partner will decide they do not want to take leave after all; once you have curtailed your maternity leave you cannot usually change your mind.

Remember: Once you have opted for SPL, you cannot change your mind (except in limited circumstances), even if the relationship with your partner breaks down.

Are you entitled to Shared Parental Leave? If you are the mother wanting to take or share SPL, you must:

  • Be an employee and entitled to statutory maternity leave (SML),
  • Have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due
  • Still be employed in the week before you start your leave
  • Shorten your SMP by returning to work or providing your employer with a curtailment notice, giving the date your SML will end (in the future).

In addition your partner, who shares care of the child, must have worked for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the due date and earned £30 per week in 13 of the 66 weeks. S/he does not need to be an employee unless s/he too wants to take SPL

If you are the mother’s partner wanting to take or share SPL, you must

  • Be an employee,
  • Have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks at the end of the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due
  • Still be employed in the week before you start your leave
  • Share responsibility for the child with your partner.

In addition the mother must:

  • Be entitled to maternity leave, SMP or maternity allowance,
  • Cut short her maternity leave or, if not entitled to leave, her pay
  • Have worked for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the due date and earned £30 per week in 13 of the 66 weeks
  • Share responsibility for the child.

All employees must give a notice of entitlement, declarations for you and your partner and notice to book SPL. The employee must give at least 8 weeks’ notice of the start of SPL.

Remember:

  • It is the mother’s choice whether to shorten her maternity leave to enable the couple to take shared parental leave, or for just her to take SPL
  • It is possible to take SPL where only one of a couple is entitled to it, for example if the other is not an employee
  • You can also share pay with shared parental pay
  • A self-employed person receiving maternity allowance can transfer this to her partner to enable them to take SPL (if they qualify).

How to share leave with your partner

If you are a mother entitled to statutory maternity leave (SML), you can share 50 weeks of the leave with your partner, provided you satisfy the qualifying conditions and follow the procedure for taking SPL. You can also share the pay.  Partner includes the father, the mother’s partner (whether a spouse, civil partner or living together as a couple). Even if you are not entitled to SML yourself, but only statutory maternity pay (for example where you have been dismissed during your pregnancy) or maternity allowance, you can transfer the pay to your partner who can then take SPL and pay, provided s/he is employed and satisfies the qualifying conditions. Similar provisions apply to adopters and surrogate parents.

Key points The mother must take at least two weeks compulsory leave; Between you and your partner you can only take a maximum of 50 weeks SPL within the first year. This is reduced by the amount of maternity leave the mother has or intends to take;

  •  The mother must either return to work or shorten her maternity leave so that the remaining leave is SPL, which either or both of you can take.
  •  The mother can remain on maternity leave while the partner is, at the same time, on shared parental leave.
  •  You can take SPL at the same time as your partner (eg both on leave for the first 26 weeks) or at separate times, or a mixture of both; you need to agree how to split the leave. The father is also entitled to 2 weeks’ paternity leave.
  •  You can take up to three separate periods of SPL, so that you can take 10 weeks SPL, work for 6 weeks, take 10 weeks SPL, work for 6 weeks, take 6 weeks SPL. But SPL must be taken within a year of the babies’ birth.

Remember:

  • Statutory maternity pay is paid at 90% of pay for the first 6 weeks and then at the flat rate for 33 weeks. If you move to SPL you will lose that higher rate as Shared Parental Pay is paid at the flat rate.
  • If your employer pays more than the minimum maternity pay, but does not enhance shared parental pay, you will lose out if you move from SML to SPL as you must be on maternity leave to get enhanced maternity pay.

The procedure for taking SPL The first step is for the mother to shorten her maternity leave by either:

  • Returning to work, or
  • Giving at least 8 weeks’ notice to her employer to end her maternity leave at a date in the future. This is called a curtailment notice. This can only be withdrawn in limited circumstances by serving a revocation notice before the leave curtailment date.

Note: once the mother has returned to work she cannot go back on maternity leave, but she can take SPL. At the same time as the curtailment notice the mother must give the employer a notice of entitlement and intention to take SPL or a declaration that their partner has served such a notice: The Notice of entitlement must set out:

  • How many weeks’ maternity leave the mother has taken or intends to take,
  • How many weeks SPL and pay is available to the employee and their partner,
  • How many weeks each intends to take,
  • An indication (non-binding) of how the employee will take the SPL.

The employee must also provide a declaration from their partner stating that:

  • The partner meets the employment and earnings test,
  • The partner agrees to the employee taking SPL.

There are similar (but not identical) provisions where the partner is requesting leave. The employee must then complete a notice to book leave, setting out the start and finish of the leave. The employee may service up to three notices to book leave so they can alternate between working and SPL Note:

  • Notices must be given at least 8 weeks before the start of SPL
  • If discontinuous leave is taken the period of working will reduce the amount of SPL (unless the partner’s SPL coincides with the period of working). SPL must be taken in the first year
  • If the employee requests only one period of leave, the employer must agree
  • If the employee sets out 2 or 3 separate periods of leave to be taken, the employer may refuse and the employee can withdraw the notice and instead give three separate notices each setting out a period of leave.

For example: M takes 20 weeks SML. M and P agree to take 30 weeks SPL between them. P takes SPL for the first 6 weeks, then works for 6 weeks. M works when P is on SPL and takes SPL when P is working. M takes the remaining SPL, which is 18 weeks.

Have you heard about your right to request flexible working? Watch our film to find out more.

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