The government is encouraging more employees to take up Shared Parental Leave (SPL).

Business Minister, Andrew Griffiths, said ‘Shared Parental Leave gives choice to families… Employers can reap the benefits too. We know that flexibility in work is proven to create happier, more loyal and more productive workforces’.

However, at present, the take up is very low. Around 285,000 couples are eligible to take SPL every year, but only about 2% do so.

The campaign comes days after the government unveiled the Good Work Plan, which announced that there would more of an emphasis placed on making people aware of key employment rights.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

Introduced in 2015, SPL gives new parents more flexible options when deciding who will take time off work to care for the baby. It moves away from the traditional idea that mothers are the primary carers of children and allows fathers to take a more active role in the first year of the child’s life.

By law, a birth mother must take a minimum of two weeks’ maternity leave after having a baby, or four weeks for factory workers. After this, the parents can opt-in for SPL at any time.

Provided that certain eligibility and notification criteria are complied with, the mother can end her maternity leave early and share up to 50 weeks of leave with the father of the baby or mother’s spouse or civil partner or partner at the time of the child’s birth.

The mother and father can choose whether to take the leave consecutively or at the same time. They also have the choice of taking one continuous block of leave or taking discontinuous periods. This means that they can take leave and return to work and then take another period of leave. They have the right to ask for three separate blocks of leave and the minimum period of leave which may be taken is one week.

Employers must accept requests for one continuous period of leave, but in cases of requests for discontinuous blocks of leave, they have 14 days to accept, put forward other suggestions or refuse.

While on SPL, they may be entitled to up to 37 weeks of Statutory Shared Parental Pay.

If you have any questions about SPL, contact your Employment Law Adviser for guidance and support.

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