Parents will not be obliged to take SPL once the new scheme comes into force. The default position on the birth of a child will be that the 52 weeks of maternity leave (39 weeks paid) will remain in place.
The SPL Regulations set out the scheme under which parents can take SPL:
- In relation to births, a mother who is entitled to statutory maternity leave, statutory maternity pay, or maternity allowance, may curtail her entitlement so that she and the child's other parent may share the balance of the leave, pay, or allowance period as SPL.
- In relation to adoptions, a "primary adopter" who is entitled to statutory adoption leave or statutory adoption pay, may curtail their entitlement so that they and the child's other adoptive parent may share the balance of the leave or pay period as SPL.
The rules are complicated:
- For parents to participate in the SPL scheme, the mother or primary adopter must either return to work or curtail their maternity or adoption leave or, where they are not entitled to leave, curtail their maternity or adoption pay or maternity allowance period.
- A curtailment notice must be given at least eight weeks before the date on which the mother or primary adopter wishes their leave or pay entitlement to end, which cannot be before the end of the compulsory maternity leave period or two weeks after the start of the adoption leave or pay period. At the same time as serving a curtailment notice, the mother or primary adopter must serve either a notice of entitlement and intention to take SPL, or a declaration that their partner has served such a notice.
Where a mother is an employee but the father is self-employed, or unemployed having recently lost his job, the father will not technically qualify for SPL as he has no employer. However, because the father has been economically active, the mother may not be restricted to taking maternity leave. She may be able to access the more flexible SPL scheme. This means she will be able to take part of her maternity leave, go back to work, and then take a further period or periods of SPL at a later date, up to 52 weeks after birth.
Acas have published new guidance on shared parental leave available here.
This is intended for general information only and should not be considered as giving advice in relation to any individual case nor be taken as applying to any particular case. No liability is accepted for any such use of the information.