Shared Parental Leave and Shared Parental Pay - Guidance Note

31 March 2015

Author: Leona Rankin
Practice Area: Employment Law


On 5 April 2015, the Work and Families Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 will come into force and will give effect to the Shared Parental Leave Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015.

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is a new legal entitlement for eligible parents of babies due, or children placed for adoption, on or after, 5 April 2014.  SPL enables parents to share the caring responsibilities for their child in its first year and take time off work in a more flexible way.  The new rules also provide for Shared Parental Pay (ShPP).

Unlike maternity/adoption leave, eligible employees can stop and start their SPL and return to work between periods of leave with each eligible parent able to submit three separate notices booking periods of leave (or altering SPL).

How is SPL created?

Eligible mothers can volunteer to end their maternity (or adoption) leave early to “free up” weeks to be taken as SPL.

How much SPL or ShPP can be taken?

A mother must still take 2 weeks compulsory maternity leave and maternity pay, or adoption leave and pay (4 weeks if she is a factory worker) which means that:

•  Maximum amount of SPL available  =  50 weeks (or 48 weeks if a factory worker)

•  Maximum  amount of ShPP available  =  37 weeks (or 35 weeks if a factory worker)

How can an employee take SPL?

Maternity leave (or adoption leave) must be “curtailed” (i.e. brought to an end) before an employee can take SPL.  Maternity (or adoption) leave can be curtailed in one of two ways:

a.  The mother actually returning to work. The mother will have to give notice to her employer to end maternity (or adoption) pay at least 9 weeks before the expiry of the 39 weeks to ensure ShPP is available; or

b.  The mother giving a curtailment notice to her employer confirming that she will not be taking her full maternity leave entitlement and that her maternity (or adoption) leave will come to an end on a specified date in the future.  A curtailment notice, once served, is binding on the employee and cannot be withdrawn (except in very limited circumstances).

Who is eligible for SPL and ShPP?

Only employees will be eligible for SPL.  It will not apply to self-employed, unemployed or agency workers.

The eligibility criteria for SPL will hopefully be familiar to employers as it is essentially the same criteria as for statutory maternity leave and statutory paternity leave.  Similarly, the eligibility criteria for ShPP will be familiar to employers as an employee will be entitled to ShPP if they would be entitled to statutory maternity pay or statutory paternity pay and their partner meets the “employment and earnings test”.

It is the employee’s responsibility to ensure that they are eligible for SPL and/or ShPP. They must provide a declaration to this effect and there is no requirement on the employer to check that the information provided is correct.  

Choosing to opt into the SPL system 

An employee must serve a notice of entitlement at least 8 weeks’ notice before taking SPL. They must also serve a ‘notice to book’ confirming dates that they wish to take as SPL. The process is outlined below in more detail:

Following SPL, employee has right to return:

a)  to the samejob if returning from any period of leave that includes maternity leave / paternity leave / adoption leave / SPL that totals 26 weeks or less; or

b)  to the same job, or if that is not reasonably practicable, to a similar job that is suitable and appropriate for the employee to do in the circumstances (that is no less favourable) if leave totals more than 26 weeks.

Action Points:

·  Review existing policies

·  Introduce SPL and ShPP policy

·  Consider whether your business will enhance ShPP in line with maternity / paternity pay.

The contents of this guidance note are for information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

To download a pdf version of this guidance note please click here. 

If you require further information, please contact Sarah Cochrane or Leona Rankin from our employment team.