In 2015 this new benefit to employees was introduced so that parents can be more flexible in how they arrange to take time off work to care for children. It has challenged the outdated idea that it is always the mother who takes time off to be at home.

Interestingly Sweden made paternal leave gender neutral in 1974 and the other Nordic countries have more generous pay and leave entitlements for working parents. Maternity leave and pay varies enormously across the world, America has no guaranteed statutory maternity pay at all!

Back to the UK, parents can take time off at the same time or at different times. Employees need to share the pay and leave in the first year after your child is born (or placed) with your family. Being able to be flexible has allowed parents to spend time together at an important time in their lives and make the choice of how to use this leave based on their own family’s needs.

Shared parental leave (SPL) can offer the option to end maternity (or adoption) leave early and share what remains with their partner. Parents can share up to 50 weeks’ leave and up to 37 weeks’ pay.

Parents (or parents to be) need to talk to their employers about any leave they intend to take as early on as possible, any decisions at this stage are not binding but it helps the employer to plan for absence. With any maternity and paternity leave, notice has to be given at the end of the 15 th week before the expected week of childbirth (or within seven days of a child being matched if they are adopting).

Keeping in touch days are 10 days when a woman on maternity leave can go to work without her statutory leave and pay being affected. There are also 20 additional days for each parent who is on shared parental leave.

Employees entitled to SPL have the statutory right to take SPL in up to three separate blocks (but an employer might allow the leave to be taken in more blocks than this).

Sometimes only one parent in a couple will be eligible for SPL and statutory shared parental pay. This means that they cannot share the leave.

An employee must give the correct notice including a declaration that their partner meets the employment and income requirements which allows the other employee to get shared parental leave.

To be eligible for SPL and statutory shared parental pay (ShPP), both parents must meet work and pay criteria. These are different depending on which parent wants to use the shared parental leave and pay. Also, employees are not eligible if they started sharing responsibility for the child after it was born.

Both parents must have been employed continuously for 26 weeks by the end of the 15 th week before the due date and need to earn at least £116 a week.

If the mother’s partner wants to take the SPL and ShPP, the mother must have been working for at least 26 weeks (they do not need to be in a row) during the 66 weeks before the week the baby is due and have earned at least £390 in total across any 13 of the 66 weeks.

The mother’s partner must have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date.

Shared parental pay is paid at the rate of £145.18 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

The uptake of shared parental leave in the UK is low – about 2%. This is thought to be a combination of factors, families not being able to afford the drop in pay, lack of awareness of the benefit and not meeting the eligibility criteria.


Nicky Ackerley BA[Hons]

Nicky is the owner of HR Support Consultancy. She has a BA(Hons) in Business Studies, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and has been a practising HR manager for more than 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA Members Advisory Service (formerly known as the Industrial Relations Service) since it began in 2002.

VOL 33 • November 2018 • Veterinary Nursing Journal