Shared parental leave and pay

If you have a baby (including through a surrogacy arrangement, where you are a 'Parental Order Parent') or adopt a child, you and your partner might be entitled to Shared Parental Leave (SPL) during your child's first year. Parents and adopters might also be eligible for Shared Parental Pay (ShPP).

When to take Shared Parental Leave

Working parents must take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) between the baby's birth and first birthday (or within one year of adoption).

Parents are still entitled to take their maternity, paternity or adoption leave, however a mother or adopter will need to reduce their maternity/adoption leave in order for either parent to opt into SPL.

A mother or adopter can reduce their maternity/adoption leave and opt into SPL.

Reducing your maternity or adoption leave

If you reduce your maternity or adoption leave (or Maternity Allowance) and pay entitlement, the remaining leave will be available as SPL and the remaining weeks of pay will be available as ShPP.  

You can share this remaining leave with your partner if they’re also eligible for SPL. This allows your partner to take SPL while you are still on maternity/adoption leave as long as you have given binding notice to end your maternity/adoption leave.

Example of Shared Parental Leave

A mother and her partner are both eligible for SPL. The mother ends her maternity leave after 12 weeks, leaving 40 weeks (of the total 52 week entitlement) available for SPL. The mother takes 30 weeks and her partner takes 10 weeks.

Arranging flexible leave

SPL lets you suggest a flexible pattern of leave to your employer. You have the right to take SPL in three separate blocks but your employer can agree to more. They can also let you split each block into several shorter periods of work and leave.

It's important both parents talk to their employers about taking leave so you'll know: 

  • your entitlement
  • leave arrangements being considered
  • how your leave will be accommodated

Eligibility for birth parents

To qualify for Shared Parental Leave (SPL), you must, from birth, share care of the child with:

  • your husband, wife or civil partner
  • the child's other parent or
  • your partner (if they live with you and the child)

You must also:

  • have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due to be born and
  • be employed by the same employer while you take SPL

Additionally, during the 66 weeks before the baby is due, your partner must have:

  • been working for at least 26 weeks (they don't need to be consecutive weeks)
  • earned at least £30 a week on average in 13 of the 66 weeks

For the purposes of your eligibility, your partner can be employed, self-employed or an agency worker.

To qualify for Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) you must also:

  • earn at least £118 per week on average in the 8 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due to be born and either
  • you qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay or
  • your partner qualifies for Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance

Sometimes only one parent in a couple is eligible to get Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). This means that you can’t share the leave between you.

If you’re eligible, you can use SPL to book your leave in separate blocks even if your partner can’t share it.

Eligibility for Adopters

To qualify for Shared Parental Leave (SPL), you must, from the date of placement, share care of the child with:

  • your husband, wife, civil partner or joint adopter or
  • your partner (if they live with you and the child)

and one of you must qualify for statutory adoption leave or statutory adoption pay for the child.

You must also:

  • by the end of the week in which you were notified of being matched with the child for adoption, have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks and
  • be employed by the same employer while you take SPL

Additionally, during the 66 weeks up to the end of the week in which you were notified of being matched with the child for adoption, your partner must have:

  • been working for at least 26 weeks (they don't need to be consecutive weeks)
  • earned at least £30 a week on average in 13 of the 66 weeks

For the purposes of your eligibility, your partner can be employed, self-employed or an agency worker.

To qualify for Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) you must also:

  • earn at least £118 per week on average in the 8 weeks up to and including the week in which you were notified of being matched with the child for adoption and
  • either you or your partner must qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay

Sometimes only one parent in a couple is eligible to get Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). This means that you can’t share the leave between you.

If you’re eligible, you can use SPL to book your leave in separate blocks even if your partner can’t share it.

Eligibility for Parental Order Parents

To qualify for Shared Parental Leave (SPL), you must share care of the child with:

  • your husband, wife, or civil partner or
  • your partner (if they live with you and the child)

and one of you must have qualified for statutory adoption leave or statutory adoption pay for the child. 

Additionally both of you must have either:

  • been granted a Parental Order for the child or
  • applied for, or will apply for within 6 months of birth, a Parental Order for the child and expect the court to grant such an Order

You must also:

  • have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due to be born and
  • be employed by the same employer while you take SPL

Additionally, during the 66 weeks before the baby is due, your partner must have:

  • been working for at least 26 weeks (they don't need to be consecutive weeks)
  • earned at least £30 a week on average in 13 of the 66 weeks

For the purposes of your eligibility, your partner can be employed, self-employed or an agency worker.

To qualify for Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) you must also:

  • earn at least £118 per week on average in the 8 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due to be born and
  • either you or your partner must qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay

Sometimes only one parent in a couple is eligible to get Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). This means that you can’t share the leave between you.

If you’re eligible, you can use SPL to book your leave in separate blocks even if your partner can’t share it.

How much you'll get

ShPP is £148.68 a week or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

This is the same as Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), with the exception that during the first six weeks, SMP is paid at 90 per cent of whatever you earn (with no maximum).

Example of Statutory Shared Parental Pay

A woman decides to start her maternity leave 11 weeks before the due date. She gives notice she will take SPL from two weeks after the birth (taking a total of 13 weeks' maternity leave). She normally earns £200 a week.

She gets £180 (90 per cent of her average weekly earnings) as SMP for the first six weeks, then £148.68 a week for the next seven weeks. Once she goes onto SPL, she still gets £148.68 a week.

Returning to work

When returning to work after a period of SPL (or any combination of SPL, Statutory Maternity Leave, Statutory Paternity Leave or Statutory Adoption Leave) of 26 weeks or less, you have a right to return to the same job and the same terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been away.

This also applies when you go back to work after a period of SPL (or any combination of SPL, Statutory Maternity Leave, Statutory Paternity Leave or Statutory Adoption Leave) of more than 26 weeks), unless your employer shows it is not reasonably practicable to return to your original job (for example, because the job no longer exists). In this case your employer must must offer you a suitable job on terms and conditions that are no less favourable.

Flexible working

All employees who have been working continuously for 26 weeks are entitled to ask for a flexible working pattern. This can help you balance caring for your child and work. Your employer must consider your request and give you a written reply.

Taking Parental Leave after SPL

If you need more time off to look after your child, you may be able to take parental leave. You can take up to four weeks' parental leave at the end of your SPL without affecting your right to return.

If you take more than four weeks, you will be able to return to the same job unless this is not reasonably practicable. In this case your employer must must offer you a suitable job on terms and conditions that are no less favourable.

Parental leave doesn’t have to follow straight after SPL. You can take parental leave after you have returned to work.

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