Which of your employees qualify for parental leave?

Many employers are unsure...

First published on Wednesday, Jun 24, 2020

Last updated on Wednesday, Jun 24, 2020

Parental leave has become slightly more complicated recently, following new UK rules for ‘shared parental leave’ that were introduced in April 2015.

Which employees qualify for which kind of parental leave? Here are the important details HR staff need to know.

Who qualifies for regular parental leave?

Parental leave is unpaid leave that mums and dads can take to look after the welfare of their children.

Eligible employees can take up to 18 weeks of parental leave per child under 18. The maximum amount employees are entitled to take per year is four weeks for each child.

Qualifying criteria

Your employees qualify for parental leave if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Their child is under 18
  • They’ve been with your organisation for more than a year
  • They’re named on the child’s birth certificate or adoption certificate, or they expect to have parental responsibility for an expected child. Foster parents are excluded, unless they’ve legally secured parental responsibility.
  • They’re on your organisation’s payroll, rather than agency workers or contractors

You can ask for proof of eligibility within reason. It would be unreasonable to ask to see a birth certificate every time the employee requests parental leave.

Your organisation can extend parental eligibility to include more employees or increase the allowance, if you choose.

Who qualifies for shared parental leave?

Shared parental leave (SPL) is an alternative to statutory maternity leave, which allows a mother and her partner to share up to 50 weeks of SPL and up to 37 weeks of paid Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP).

Employees are eligible if their baby was due or adopted on or after 5 April 2015, when the new rules were introduced.

Rules on eligibility are somewhat complicated, because each parent qualifies for SPL and ShPP separately.

Shared parental leave qualifying criteria

For an employee to qualify for SPL:

  • They must share responsibility for the child with their partner, joint adopter, or the child’s other parent
  • They or their partner must be eligible for maternity pay, maternity leave, maternity allowance, or adoption pay or leave
  • They must have been employed by you for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date or adoption date

The employee’s partner must also:

  • Have worked at least 26 weeks during the 66 weeks before the due date or adoption date
  • Have earned a total of at least £390 in 13 of those 66 weeks

Statutory Shared Parental Pay qualifying criteria

An employee can qualify for Statutory Shared Parental Pay if they’re eligible for:

  • Statutory maternity pay (SMP) or statutory adoption pay (SAP)
  • Statutory paternity pay (SPP), and their partner is eligible for SMP, maternity allowance, or SAP

SPL and ShPP can only start after the baby has been born or adopted, and after any maternity leave, adoption leave, maternity pay, adoption pay or maternity allowance has ended.

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