Shared parental leave: what are you doing about it?

Newsletter articles

1 Apr 2015

HR Insight Issue 20

Mary Mercer, IES Principal Associate

Mary Mercer

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) is a new way for parents to share statutory leave and pay on the birth of a child. It will be available for working parents whose baby is due on or after 5 April 2015, or who adopt a child on or after that date.

There is a lot to think about when establishing the new regulations. Certainly the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) hope that the new regulations will create a cultural revolution in how mothers and fathers share caring commitments on the birth of a child. However, this depends on how employers implement the new regulations; the detail will give clear messages to employees about their organisation's commitment to fathers sharing the caring load with mothers.

We recently held a very well-attended HR Network members' event on this topic, with speakers from IES and BIS. We found that member organisations varied in their state of readiness for SPL and in their approaches to its implementation. They found the workshop a useful opportunity to clarify their understanding of the requirements and find out how others are implementing the new rules.

The basics

SPL will consist of 50 weeks leave, and 37 weeks' pay at a flat rate. The time can be shared between parents and both can be off at the same time if they want to be. SPL can be stopped and started, so a mother could return to work for a time and then resume leave at a later date.Any woman who comes off her employer's maternity scheme to go onto SPL will not be able to go back onto maternity leave and pay, so she will need to consider carefully if her employer enhances maternity leave and pay but nor SPL or ShPP.

The uncertainties

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills estimates that between 2 – 8 per cent of parents will take up SPL.

Employers can of course enhance SPL and ShPP, and how and whether they match ShPP to maternity pay is a current debate for many organisations. For many, matching enhanced maternity pay and ShPP seems prohibitive but, if the aim is really to change the culture and enable fathers to do their share, it seems unrealistic to expect this to happen if maternity pay and ShPP are not matched.

Some solutions

Some organisations are reducing enhanced maternity pay so that they can match ShPP to it. Many employers are keen that the time their employees are taking off can be managed, so some are offering to enhance ShPP if it is taken in blocks of time at four, six or eight weeks.

Others are looking at how SPL can be used to trial flexible working, by enabling employees to take SPL but using some of the 20 Shared Parental Leave in Touch (SPLIT)[1] days to work part time. Employers need to think about whether enhancing ShPP in certain ways will enable them to encourage take-up but also manage it.

Further reading and training

For more information about ways to set up and implement SPL, please contact Mary Mercer at


  1. Parents can both work up to 20 days during SPL. These days are in addition to the 10 optional 'keeping in touch' (or KIT) days already available to those on maternity or adoption leave.