What is Shared Parental Leave and who is entitled to take it?

You may have heard about Shared Parental leave in the news or in discussions with friends.

 You may even know somebody has already taken it. 

What is it and how does it work?

Traditionally, when having a baby in the UK, only the mother was entitled to take up to 52 weeks off work and her employer would be obliged to hold her job for her when she returned.

Fathers would only be able to take 2 weeks off work after the baby was born.

However, since April 2015, parents can now share up to 50 weeks of leave between them (following the first 2 weeks of compulsory leave, which must be taken by the mother for obvious reasons).

Partners can still take 2 weeks of paid Paternity Leave in the first 2 weeks after birth.

Additionally, 37 weeks of statutory pay (currently £145.18 per week) is now paid to either the mother or her partner.

However, the mother receives statutory maternity pay at 90% of her average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks of maternity leave (presumably to encourage mothers to take the first few weeks off). The partner does not receive this,  receiving only the statutory £145.18 per week.

So, in summary:

  • after the first 2 weeks of leave, couple can begin Shared Parental Leave straight away and can divide the leave up as they wish (though they would potentially lose the benefit of the 90% maternity pay, which is paid in the first 6 weeks); or
  • after the first 6 weeks of maternity leave, couples can move onto Shared Parental Leave and can divide the leave up as they wish.

In reality, this means that couples could both take up to 6 months off work.

Another key feature is that any of the 50 weeks can be taken together, for example, a couple might rather take 6 months together than, say, the mother taking 6 months followed by her partner taking 6 months thereafter.

For more detailed information see:


It is also available for adopting parents though different criteria applies - follow the above link for more details.


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