You’re on your knees. You’ve had no sleep in days, weeks, months even. The baby seems to hate you. I mean that must be the only explanation surely? It’s almost like she is crying at you. You’ve not eaten all day; quite simply you haven’t been able to put the baby down to even go to the toilet let alone prepare food. Then you hear the key in the lock. Inwardly your heart leaps- he’s home!
Into the living room (which seems to have become your prison) waltzes a smiling hubby with his arms outstretched to take the baby, who you gleefully handover.
‘Had a good day darling? The house is looking a bit of a mess…’
Before he even finishes his sentence you dash past him out of the room, unsure of whether to head first to the fridge or to the toilet. Either way, one thing is for sure; you need to kill your husband.
But here’s the thing. Due to the introduction of Shared Parental Leave, it doesn’t need to be like this. Designed to enable a more modern and equal approach to parenting, Shared Parental Leave enables partners to share both the joys and the difficulties of maternity leave.
What is it?
Shared Parental Leave (lets refer to it as SPL) can be taken if maternity leave is finished early. The remaining leave goes into a ‘pot’ and can be shared in a number of different ways, either in separate blocks or taken together.
Who is eligible?
To be eligible, the care of the child must be shared with one of the following:
- Your husband, wife or civil partner or joint adopter
- The child’s parent
- Your partner (providing that you live with them)
In terms of your employment, you must have been:
Continuously employed for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before your due date. (Yes, like with Maternity Leave this is that backwards way of saying week 25 of pregnancy).
Secondly, to allow you to qualify, your partner must have:
Worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the due date and have earned above the threshold for maternity allowance (£30 a week) in 13 of the 66 weeks.
So, if both parents meet this criteria, you will both be able to take, and share the leave. Nice. However what about when one of you doesn’t? Well as long as one parent at least meets the criteria in the paragraph above, then the other parent will qualify for leave.
You must also ensure that the correct notice is given (8 weeks notice must be given before any block of leave you wish to take) which should include a declaration that your partner meets the employment and income requirements which allow you to receive SPL.
What you get
With the exception of the first two weeks after baby’s birth which is known as ‘Compulsory Maternity Leave’ and must be taken by the mother (no explanation needed – come on now, you don’t need to be a hero) SPL lasts for the same duration as Maternity Leave. This means that parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave either continuously or intermittently between blocks of work.
SPL can be taken at any time from the birth of baby to 52 weeks after that date.
How it works: The options
- Both parents can take time off together
Whilst this means that the overall length of your leave will be shorter as essentially you are using up two weeks at a time, to me the thought of having hubby around in those, haven’t had time to wash or eat or even BLOW MY NOSE, early days sounds like bliss. You can be off work together for up to 6 months or alternatively your partner could return to work after a couple of months and then you could choose split the rest of the leave into blocks to alternate childcare.
2. Both parents work part time
This would mean that the whole of the 50 weeks leave could be covered in terms of childcare and you could both get equal time caring for baby- win win!
3. Mum goes back to work and her partner takes the leave
In these modern times in which we live, it might be the case that you (as mother) are actually the main breadwinner. In which case it would make sense that you go back to work earlier to start bringing in those pennies (in order to afford all those completely essential Amazon baby purchases that you absolutely need to buy immediately). In this instance your other half could take up the bulk of the SPL as soon as you’ve returned to work.
4. Only one parent qualifies
Whilst this sort of feels like it is negating the point, actually if only you as mother qualifes for SPL, you can still chose to end your Maternity Leave early and start SPL. This then gives you the flexibility to split your leave into 3 blocks (and earn some money again in time for the he’s to big for the travel system I think it’s time to go buggy shopping again, pushchair upgrade).
What about pay?
So in terms of pay you are looking at the same statutory rate as the base rate of maternity pay. Huh? Well from the first of April this equates to £145.18 per week or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower. This is paid for a total of 37 weeks (to cover the same duration as Maternity Leave).
Shared parental leave in touch days
These are the same as Keeping in Touch (KIT) days when on maternity leave, but instead of 10 days, you and your partner can each take up to 20 paid SPLIT days (yes, I know; puns a plenty) and still continue to receive your statutory pay.
As with many things, being self employed makes things slightly trickier but it is still possible to take SPL if you (as mother) are self employed. You can create leave and pay for your employed partner to take from your Maternity Allowance which you will not be using.
So that’s it, I’ve tried to keep it fairly simple as it can be a bit mind boggling, but if in doubt, give your HR department a call or ACAS are always pretty helpful (and freeeeee) if you don’t have one.