12th February 2015

Shared Parental Leave and Pay – Part 1: Eligibility

Shared parental leave and pay was introduced in December last year and will become available in respect of children born, or placed for adoption, on or after 5 April 2015.

What does this mean for employers?

The new scheme applies to all employers and allows qualifying employees to share the 52 weeks available for maternity leave between mother and father.  Similarly, the right will also extend to spouses, partners and civil partners of mothers or those who adopt.  This three part series is intended to give an overview of the system of shared parental leave and pay.  The first part deals with eligibility – who qualifies for shared leave and pay?

Who is eligible for shared parental leave and pay?

The eligibility requirements vary slightly as between leave and pay.  As with maternity leave and pay, it is possible that an employee could qualify for one but not the other.  Similarly, it is possible that in some circumstances only one parent will qualify for shared leave or pay.  Here are the requirements:-

For leave

  • The person must be an employee with 26 weeks’ continuous service as at the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth
  • They must share the main caring responsibility for the child with their spouse/partner/civil partner
  • The mother must be entitled to statutory maternity leave (“SML”) and must have cut short that entitlement – a mother will not qualify for shared parental leave if she does not qualify for SML
  • Where the mother does not qualify for SML, her husband/partner/civil partner may still qualify for shared leave if the mother is eligible for statutory maternity pay (“SMP”) or maternity allowance (and she curtails that entitlement)
  • The father/spouse/partner/civil partner must satisfy the employment and earnings test (which requires them to have been an employed or self-employed earner for any 26 weeks out of the 66 weeks prior to childbirth, and with average weekly earnings of at least £30 in any 13 of those 26 weeks)
  • The person must give a notice of entitlement and a booking notice to the employer (part 2 will cover notices in more detail)

For pay

  • The conditions above must be satisfied, subject to the following additions:-
  • The mother must be eligible for SMP – a mother will not be eligible for statutory shared parental pay if she does not meet this requirement
  • Where the mother is not eligible for SMP, the father may nonetheless qualify for statutory shared parental leave if the mother is entitled to maternity allowance and curtails that entitlement
  • An employee must satisfy the lower earnings limit for class 1 NICs (currently £111 per week) in the 8 weeks ending with the 15thweek prior to expected childbirth. Note that this test is the same as that currently used to assess eligibility for SMP and statutory paternity pay.

The next part of this series will cover notice and booking leave.

Jack Boyle
Senior Solicitor – Employment Law

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