Law guide: Workplace

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Booking shared parental leave

Booking shared parental leave

Before booking shared parental leave (SPL), you must first apply for it. When your employer approves it, you can then book it.

When you book a period of shared parental leave, you must give your employer a written notice. This is a called a 'booking notice'.

You can give the booking notice at the same time as giving notice to apply for SPL.

When to give a booking notice

You must give your employer the booking notice at least 8 weeks before you want your SPL to start. It must state the start and end dates of each period of SPL you 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 you give the booking notice before the day the child is born, you can state that 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, you can say in the notice that you want to book 3 weeks' notice to begin '3 weeks after the child is born'.

What you can book

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

Employers must approve requests for periods of continuous leave. If you want to book discontinuous periods of leave, it can be rejected by your employer, but they could propose an alternative.

You'll be allowed to submit a maximum of 3 notices to book or change dates for SPL.

Your employer's response

Your employer must tell you their decision within 2 weeks, starting from the date that you gave in your booking notice to them.

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

If an agreement isn't reached in those 2 weeks, you'll be entitled to take your requested amount of leave as continuous leave.

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

Changing a period of SPL

You must give your employer written notice if you want to change a period of SPL.

When changing a period of SPL, you can:

Change the start date or end date of any period of SPL

If you want to change the start or end dates of any SPL period, you must give your employer at least 8 weeks' notice before both the date you're changing and the new date. Therefore, you can change the start or end date to:

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

Cancelling a period of SPL

If you want to cancel SPL, you must give your employer at least 8 weeks' notice before what would have been the start date.

Change the type of SPL requested

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

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

  • because your 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 employer's request.

How to send your notice

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


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 guide on shared parental leave or LRA website for Northern Ireland for situations where:

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

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