Shared parental leave

New mothers and fathers can now share leave to look after their child in the first 12 months. The new rules apply to children expected to be born (or adopted) on or after 5 April 2015.

New mothers can still take their full maternity leave and pay if they wish. But they now have an option to end maternity leave early and convert the balance (up to 50 weeks leave and 37 weeks paid leave entitlement) into shared parental leave, which can then be shared with her partner.

To qualify, mothers must be an employee entitled to maternity or adoption entitlement and have given notice to end it. They must also share the main responsibility for caring for the child with the partner. The partner must be employed or meet the earning tests. They 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. If the mother is self-employed, she will not be able to take shared parental leave but her employed partner could do so.

Three requests can be made for continuous blocks of leave.  An employer must agree to these requests provided they are made properly (with proper notice) and the employee is eligible. If an employee wishes to request a discontinuous period of leave (i.e. going off, coming back and going off again) the employee can refuse this.

If your employer pays maternity pay at a rate higher than the statutory minimum check with your employer if they will pay you shared parental leave at the same rate.  If they do not, male employees taking shared parental leave (and pay) may have a potential claim for discrimination.

Shared parental leave can only be taken in the first 52 weeks following the birth or adoption of the child. Other options to work flexibly after that may include agreeing a flexible working arrangement and/or taking statutory parental leave (which is unpaid). You have a legal right not to suffer less favourable treatment because of maternity, pregnancy or shared parental leave as you are protected in law.