This is a scheme to allow a mother who is entitled to statutory maternity leave or a primary adopter who is entitled to statutory adoption leave to curtail that entitlement so they may share the balance of the leave with the child's other parent/adoptive parent with main responsibility for care of the child in question.
Qualification and registration
To be eligible to take SPL, the mother/primary adopter (A) must:
◉ have at least 26 weeks' continuous employment and still be in employment at the 15th week before the EWC or at the week of adoption matching notification;
◉ have a partner, the other parent/adoptive parent (B), who has worked on an employed or self-employed basis in 26 of the last 66 weeks, earning a minimum of £30 per week on average for 13 of those weeks.
◉ be entitled to statutory maternity or adoption leave;
◉ 'curtail' maternity or adoption leave, either by returning to work or by serving a 'curtailment notice';
◉ serve a notice of entitlement and intention to take SPL or a declaration that B has served such a notice on their employer.
To be eligible to take SPL, the other parent/adoptive parent (B) must:
◉ satisfy the same requirement as A for continuous employment;
◉ have a partner, the mother/primary adopter (A), who:
○ has worked on an employed or self-employed basis in 26 of the last 66 weeks, earning a minimum of £30 per week on average for 13 of those weeks;
○ was entitled to statutory maternity or adoption leave which has been curtailed.
(1) a curtailment notice should be served at least eight weeks before the desired end of maternity or adoption leave but it cannot specify an end to maternity or adoption leave that falls within the compulsory maternity leave period of two weeks following the date of childbirth or an equivalent period in adoption cases.
(2) a notice of entitlement and intention to take SPL is non-binding, but it must nevertheless specify:
◉ the EWC and the child's date of birth or, alternatively, the date A was notified of matching for adoption and either the date that the child is expected to be placed for adoption or the date of the placement;
◉ the start and end dates of any maternity or adoption leave taken or to be taken by A;
◉ the total amount of SPL available;
◉ how much SPL A and B each intend to take;
◉ the proposed start and end dates of each spell of SPL to be taken by the person serving the notice (A or B);
◉ and must be served at least eight weeks before the start of the first such proposed spell. It must also identify the other parent/adoptive parent and include a declaration by them that they consent to the proposed leave.
Verification and finalisation process
On receiving a notice of entitlement and intention, an employer may (but is not obliged to) request the employee to provide, within 14 days:
◉ a copy of the child's birth certificate or, alternatively, one or more documents issued by the adoption agency showing its name and address, the date A was notified of matching for adoption and the date on which the agency expects placement of the child to happen; and/or
◉ the name and address of the other parent's/adoptive parent's employer.
An employee must give their employer, at least eight weeks before the start date of any SPL - therefore, possibly at the same time as the curtailment notice and the notice of entitlement and intention (see above) - a 'period of leave notice' (PLN).
It can cover more than one planned spell of SPL, in which case it must be served at least eight weeks before the first such spell.
If given before the birth or placement for adoption, the PLN must feature:
◉ a start date expressed as the date of birth or a number of days following birth or, alternatively, a number of days following placement; and
◉ an end date expressed as a number of days following the birth or, alternatively, the placement.
Sequel to a PLN
Where the employee's PLN records a wish to take one continuous spell of SPL, the employer must allow it.
Where it records a wish to take two or more separate spells of SPL, the employer has a period of 14 days, beginning with the date on which the PLN was given, to:
◉ consent to the spells of SPL requested;
◉ propose alternative dates; or
◉ refuse the spells requested without proposing alternative dates.
In the last instance, or if the employer proposes alternatives but no agreement is reached within the 14 days, the employee has the choice of:
◉ taking his or her total entitlement to SPL in one continuous spell (in which case, unless, within five days of the end of the 14 day period, they notify the employer of a new start date falling at least eight weeks after the date the original PLN was served, their SPL will begin on the start date of the first spell of leave requested in that PLN); or
◉ withdrawing the PLN by the 15th day after it was originally served.
Notice to vary leave
Once entitled to a period of SPL (whether in continuous or discontinuous spells), an employee may serve a 'variation notice' (VN) to:
◉ change the start or end date of any spell of SPL (provided the VN is given at least eight weeks before both the old and new dates);
◉ request that separate spells of SPL become a continuous one, or vice-versa; or
◉ cancel a spell of notified SPL (provided the VN is given at least eight weeks before that spell is due to begin).
(1) the same conditions apply to the sequel to a VN as apply to the sequel to a PLN (see above).
(2) the minimum of eight weeks for serving a VN is replaced by 'such period as is reasonably practicable' where a child is born before the first day of the EWC and, because he or she has a start date of a spell of SPL in the eight weeks following the EWC, an employee wants to bring forward that start date so that the spell of SPL begins the same length of time after birth as it would have done had time been counted from the first day of the EWC.
Number of notices
An employee may only serve a total of three notices of leave (PLNs and VNs combined) per employer. This excludes any PLN requesting discontinuous SPL which was withdrawn on or before the 15th day after it was given and any VN served where a child was born earlier than the first day of the EWC (see above).
However, this limit may be waived and varied (increased) by agreement between the parties.
Contact during SPL
Both the employer and employee may contact each other to discuss matters to do with work and/or the leave, provided that the amount or type of contact is reasonable.
An employee may do up to 20 days' agreed work (at an agreed rate of pay) for the employer during SPL without bringing the SPL to an end. These are known as 'shared parental leave in touch' (SPLIT) days and are additional to any entitlement to KIT days (see above) when on maternity or adoption leave.
Return to work after SPL
No notice is required to return on the date(s) fixed as a consequence of the PLN.
The principal right is to return to the job occupied before absence, on rights and terms at least as favourable as if there had been no absence. Failure to allow the employee to exercise that right will normally be an unfair dismissal. However, the right is varied where:
◉ it is not practicable for the employee to return to the previous job by reason of redundancy. In this case, the employer must offer the employee any suitable alternative vacancy that exists (with it or with a successor or associated employer), on terms and conditions that are not substantially less favourable than those of the previous job. If this is not done, the resulting dismissal will be automatically unfair (see Chapter 10).
◉ The employee returns from a spell of SPL which:
○ when added to other statutory leave taken in relation to the same child, means the employee has been absent in total for more than 26 weeks; or
○ is the last of two or more consecutive periods of statutory leave in relation to the same child which included a period of parental leave of more than four weeks (see below) or a period of AML or AAL (see above).
In these two cases, if return to the original job is not reasonably practicable, the right to return becomes one to another job which is both suitable and appropriate for them.
If an employee is found to have suffered a detriment for a reason related to SPL, an employment tribunal can award unlimited compensation.
Change alert: the Government intends to extend SPL to working grandparents, possibly in 2018, although it still has to complete consultation about detailed implementation.