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Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) allows the mother or the main adopter to shorten their maternity leave so their husband, wife or partner can take time off.

Last updated: 10 March 2021

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) allows the mother/main adopter to shorten their maternity leave so their husband, wife or partner can take time off.

Or, if the mother/main adopter has returned to work early, they can take shared parental leave if they want more time off or they want to take their leave in more flexible blocks.

SPL can be taken up to a year from the baby’s birth. Parents can take SPL at the same time or separately.

Parents who are adopting a child have the same rights to SPL.


Shared parental leave can only be taken by employees who qualify for maternity leave, paternity leave or adoption leave.

If you are a worker, you cannot take shared parental leave. To find out if you are a worker or not, find out what your employment status is.

Even if one parent is not entitled to leave, the other partner may be so you need to check the qualifying conditions for each parent.

To qualify for SPL, an employee must meet the continuity of employment test:

  • You must have been continuously employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks up to the end of the qualifying week (the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth), and
  • You must still be employed by the same employer in the week before any shared parental leave is due to start.

You must also have a partner who meets the employment and earnings test

  • Your partner must have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks (not necessarily continuously) in the period of 66 weeks leading up to the expected week of childbirth and must have earned at least £30 a week on average in 13 of those weeks.

Case Study

Marie is a self-employed musician who has recently given birth. She is entitled to Maternity Allowance but not Maternity Leave as she is not an employee.

Marie plans to stop her Maternity Allowance after 15 weeks and return to work.

Her partner Chris would like to take additional time off to help look after their child.

Chris is employed as an orchestral musician and applies to take Shared Parental Leave. As Chris meets the continuity of employment test, shared parental leave is agreed.

It is important to note that Marie will not be able to claim any more Maternity Allowance once she stops, even if Chris decides not to take all of his SPL or if their circumstances change.

Chris is eligible to take up to 37 weeks of shared parental leave, but will only be paid Statutory Shared Parental Pay (SHPP) for 24 weeks of this. SHPP is paid for 39 weeks minus any weeks of Maternity Allowance already taken)

Here is the calculation: 52 weeks Maternity Leave – 15 weeks (Marie’s Maternity Allowance) = 37 weeks of Shared Parental Leave available.

Parental leave

You can take Parental Leave, which is different from the new right to shared parental leave above.

Parental Leave is usually unpaid but you should check your contract of employment or ask your employer.

Parental Leave allows you to take 18 weeks’ leave, per parent, per child, up to the child’s 18th birthday.

You are entitled to Parental Leave as long as you are an employee and you have been employed by the same employer for at least a year.

Parents who are adopting a child have the same rights to parental Leave.

For advice on Shared Parental Leave or Parental Leave please contact your MU Regional Office.

This guidance has been developed in conjunction with Maternity Action.