Law guide: Employment

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Booking shared parental leave

Booking shared parental leave

Before booking shared parental leave (SPL), the employee must first apply for it. When you approve it, they can then book it.

When your employee wants to book a period of SPL, they must give you a written notice. This is a called a 'booking notice'.

When a booking notice should be given

You must be given the booking notice at least 8 weeks before they want their SPL to start. The booking notice must state the start and end dates of each period of SPL they want to book. Each period of SPL must be booked in blocks of at least one week. The booking notice can request more than one period of SPL.

If the employee gives the booking notice before the child is born, the employee can state the SPL dates in the notice will:

  • start on the day the child is born, or on a specified number of days later; or
  • end on a specified number of days after the child is born.

For example, the employee can say in the notice that they want to book 3 weeks' notice to begin '3 weeks after the child is born'.

What can be booked

Your employee can book a single continuous (unbroken) block of SPL or discontinuous (split) blocks. An example of booking discontinuous periods of leave would be booking 2 weeks' SPL, then returning to work for 4 weeks and then taking a further 3 weeks' SPL.

You must approve requests for periods of continuous leave, but you can reject a request for discontinuous periods of leave. You could also propose an alternative.

Your employee will be allowed to submit a maximum of 3 notices to book or change dates for SPL.

Your response

You must tell your employee your decision within 2 weeks, starting from the date that you were given in the booking notice.

If you agree to the request, or you both agree alternative dates within the 2 week period, the SPL will start on the agreed dates.

If an agreement isn't reached in those 2 weeks, your employee will be entitled to take their requested amount of leave as a continuous period.

If this happens, the employee can change their dates or stick to their original dates. They can also withdraw their notice (which won't then count as one of their 3 allowed notices) as long as this is done on or before the 15th day after they gave you notice. For example, if they gave notice on 1 March, they'll have until 16 March to withdraw it.

Changing a period of SPL

You must be given a written notice if you want to change a period of SPL.

When changing a period of SPL, the employee can:

Change the start or end date of any period of SPL

If the employee wants to change the start or end dates of any SPL period, they must give you at least 8 weeks' notice before both the date being changed and the new date. Therefore, they can change the start or end date to:

  • a later date, by giving you notice at least 8 weeks before the previous start or end date (depending on which date is being changed); or
  • an earlier date, by giving at least 8 weeks' notice of the new proposed date.

Cancel a period of SPL

If the employee wants to cancel SPL , they must give you at least 8 weeks' notice before what would have been the start date.

Change the type of SPL requested

The employee can also change a period of SPL from continuous to discontinuous, or vice versa.

Each notice changing SPL will count as one of their 3 allowed notices to book or change their SPL. However, a notice won't count as one of the 3 if it has been given:

  • because the child was born before or later than their expected week of birth (this doesn't apply to adoptions);
  • to request discontinuous periods of SPL and that request is subsequently withdrawn (see 'Discontinuous (split) periods of leave' above); or
  • at your request.

How a notice should be sent to you

All the notices must be personally delivered, emailed or posted. It will be considered delivered on the day they gave, emailed or posted it to you.


The process to book SPL is the same for parents adopting a child in the UK, and the requirements above are the same for the main adopter and their partner.

In this article, any references to the following can be substituted in this way:

  • 'main adopter' for 'mother';
  • 'adoption leave' for 'maternity leave';
  • 'adoption pay' for 'maternity pay';
  • 'match date' for 'child's expected week of birth' and
  • 'placement date' for 'child's date of birth'.

Special circumstances for shared parental leave and pay

See the Acas guidance on shared parental leave for situations where:

  • the child is born before the expected date of birth;
  • the child dies;
  • the mother or her partner dies;
  • the employee no longer care for the child; or
  • the mother has given birth to more than one child.

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