The shared parental leave and pay rules offer working parents’ far greater choice as to how they share the care of their child and take time off work during the first year of their child’s life. The rules apply equally for children that have been adopted. There are various work and pay criteria that must be met in order to be eligible and the parents must share responsibility for the child. For example, in cases where only one parent in a couple is eligible, the leave cannot be shared.
Under the rules, mothers must take at least two compulsory weeks (four weeks if working in a factory) of maternity leave immediately after birth, but after that working couples can share up to 50 weeks of shared parental leave and up to 37 weeks of statutory shared parental pay. These rules, which were introduced in 2015, give families greater choice over how they arrange childcare in the first year of their child’s life by allowing working mothers the option to end their maternity pay and leave early and to share leave and pay with their partner.
New parents can choose to be at home together or to work at different times and share the care of their child during the important first year after birth. This means that parents can take their leave simultaneously or they could opt to take leave in phases. For example, 20 weeks for the mother/adopter, followed by 20 weeks for the father/partner, followed by 10 weeks for the mother/adopter. Statutory shared parental pay is currently paid at the rate of £148.68 a week or 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.