Law guide: Workplace

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Shared parental leave and pay overview

Shared parental leave and pay overview

What is shared parental leave?

After the birth of a child, all employees who meet certain requirements have a right to statutory shared parental leave (SPL) and statutory shared parental pay (SSPP).

SPL is taken by dividing the mother's maternity leave entitlement between her and her partner after she has informed her employer that she intends to give up her right to maternity leave. Similarly, maternity pay or maternity allowance can be divided so that SSPP is paid to the mother and/or her partner while taking SPL.


SPL also applies to parents who want to adopt in the UK. Adoption can include a child adopted from a UK adoption agency, a surrogate mother where a couple have applied for a parental order. It also includes foster children who are adopted under the 'Fostering for Adoption' scheme run by local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland a foster child can be adopted from a UK adoption agency (but not a court ordered adoption).

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'.

Who is eligible

Only employees can take SPL, not self-employed people or agency workers.

Employees must take SPL in the first year of the child's birth.

SPL is optional; employees who have a right to take maternity leave don't have to take SPL.

Paternity leave and SPL

Employees who have a right to take 2 weeks' paternity leave and pay can do so before taking any SPL. But if SPL is taken first, they won't then be able to take paternity leave for that same child.

Benefits of taking SPL

SPL gives parents flexibility when taking leave. For example, it can allow both parents to take SPL together or they can take it separately so that one of them can return to work while the other is taking SPL. It can also be taken while one parent is taking another form of leave, such as paternity leave.

SPL can be taken by one or both parents, depending on whether they're eligible. For example, if the mother isn't an employee, her employed partner might still be entitled to SPL and SSPP.

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