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Durham University

Human Resources & Organisational Development

Shared Parental Leave Policy

1.0 Introduction

Shared Parental Leave enables eligible parents to choose how to share the care of their child during the first year of birth or adoption. Its purpose is to give parents more flexibility in considering how to best care for, and bond with, their child. All eligible members of staff have a statutory right to take Shared Parental Leave. This policy sets out the statutory rights and responsibilities of members of staff who wish to take statutory Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)/ Shared Parental Leave Pay (SPLP).

This policy applies where a baby is due to be born on or after 5th April 2015, or for children who are placed for adoption on or after that date.

A member of staff considering taking SPL is encouraged to contact their HR representative to arrange an informal discussion as early as possible regarding their potential entitlement and to talk about their plans.

2.0 Eligibility for Shared Parental Leave

SPL can only be used by two people:

  • The mother/parent taking adoption leave and
    • Either the father of the child or the spouse or partner of the mother/adopter

Both parties must share the main responsibility for the care of the child at the time of the birth/placement for adoption.

Additionally a member of staff seeking to take SPL must satisfy each of the following criteria:

  • the mother or adopter of the child must be entitled to statutory maternity or adoption leave OR if not entitled to statutory maternity or adoption leave they must be entitled to statutory maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance and must have ended or given notice to reduce any maternity/adoption entitlements;
  • the member of staff must still be working for the University at the start of each period of SPL requested;
  • the member of staff must have a minimum of 26 weeks' service at the end of the 15th week before the child’s expected due date or matching date for adoption (this is called the continuity test);
  • the member of staff’s partner must, in the 66 weeks leading up to the child’s expected due date or matching date for adoption, have worked for at least 26 weeks and earned an average of at least £30 (this is correct as of 2015 but may change annually) a week in any 13 of those weeks (this is called the employment and earnings test);
  • the member of staff must correctly notify the University of their entitlement using the SPL1 form and provide evidence as required.

3.0 Shared Parental Leave Entitlement

Eligible members of staff may be entitled to take up to 50 weeks SPL during the child’s first year in their family.

The number of weeks available is calculated using the mother’s or adopter’s entitlement to maternity or adoption leave, which allows them to take up to 52 weeks’ leave. If they reduce their maternity/adoption leave entitlement then they and/or their partner may opt-in to the SPL system and take any remaining weeks as SPL.

A mother or adopter may reduce their entitlement to maternity or adoption leave by returning to work before the full entitlement of 52 weeks has been taken, or they may give notice to curtail their leave at a specified future date.

Once notice has been given to end maternity/adoption leave for the purposes of SPL, it is usually not possible to recommence maternity/adoption leave.

If the mother/adopter is not entitled to maternity/adoption leave but is entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) or Maternity Allowance (MA), they must reduce their entitlement to less than the 39 weeks. If they do this, their partner may be entitled to up to 50 weeks of SPL. This is calculated by deducting from 52 the number of weeks of SMP, SAP or MA taken by the mother/adopter.

SPL can begin as follows:

  • The mother can take SPL after she has taken the legally required two weeks of maternity leave immediately following the birth of the child.
  • The adopter can take SPL after taking at least two weeks of adoption leave.
  • The father/partner/spouse can take SPL immediately following the birth/placement of the child, when the mother/adopter has given notice to or ended maternity or adoption leave, but may first choose to exhaust any paternity leave entitlements (as the father/partner cannot take paternity leave or pay once they have taken any SPL or ShPP/SPLP).

SPL must end no later than one year after the birth or placement of the child. Any SPL not taken by the first birthday or first anniversary of placement for adoption is lost.

4.0 Notification of Intention to Take SPL

A member of staff entitled and intending to take SPL must give their line manager notification that they intend to take SPL and that they are entitled to do so using the SPL1 form, at least eight weeks before they can take any period of SPL. At this stage, the precise dates of the leave do not need to be provided, but it would be beneficial to provide notification of dates at the same time or an indication of when the leave might be taken where possible.

The Head of Department or line manager may upon receiving a notification of entitlement to take SPL seek to arrange an informal discussion with the member of staff to talk about their intentions and how they currently expect to use their SPL entitlement.

5.0 Fraudulent claims

The University can, where there is a suspicion that fraudulent information may have been provided or where the University has been informed by the HMRC that a fraudulent claim was made, investigate the matter further in accordance with the usual University investigation and disciplinary procedures.

6.0 Booking Shared Parental Leave

In addition to notifying the employer of entitlement to SPL, a member of staff must also give notice to take the leave using the SPL1 form at least eight weeks before the date on which they wish to start the leave and (if applicable) receive SPLP/ShPP. In many cases, notice to take leave will be given at the same time as the notice of entitlement to SPL.

The member of staff has the right to submit three notifications specifying leave periods they are intending to take.

SPL can only be taken in complete weeks but may begin on any day of the week. For example if a week of SPL began on a Tuesday it would finish on a Monday. Where a member of staff returns to work between periods of SPL, the next period of SPL can start on any day of the week.

Upon receiving an SPL1 form the Head of Department or line manager may, if necessary, arrange a meeting to discuss it.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss in detail the leave proposed and what will happen while the member of staff is away from work. Where it is a request for discontinuous leave (see below) the discussion may also focus on how the leave proposal could be agreed, whether a modified arrangement would be agreeable to the member of staff and the University, and what the outcome may be if no agreement is reached.

Continuous leave notifications

A notification can be for a period of continuous leave, which means a notification of a number of weeks taken in a single unbroken period of leave (for example, six weeks in a row).

A member of staff has the right to take a continuous block of leave notified in a single notification, so long as it does not exceed the total number of weeks of SPL available to them (specified in the notice of entitlement) and the employer has been given at least eight weeks’ notice.

Continuous leave cannot be refused by the University and must be confirmed providing the eligibility and notification requirements have been met.

Discontinuous leave notifications

A single notification may also contain a request for two or more periods of discontinuous leave, which means asking for a set number of weeks of leave over a period of time, with breaks between the leave where the member of staff returns to work (for example, an arrangement where a member of staff will take six weeks of SPL and work every other week for a period of three months).

Where there is concern over accommodating the notification, the University or the member of staff should seek to arrange a meeting to discuss the notification with a view to agreeing an arrangement that meets both the needs of the member of staff and the University (see “Booking Shared Parental Leave” section).

The University will consider a discontinuous leave notification but has the right to refuse it. There is no right of appeal against a decision to refuse a request for discontinuous leave.

If a discontinuous leave pattern is refused then the member of staff may withdraw the request without detriment on or before the 15th day after the notification was given; or may take the total number of weeks requested in a single continuous block. If the member of staff chooses to take the leave in a single continuous block, the member of staff has until the 19th day from the date the original notification was given to choose when they want the leave period to begin. The leave cannot start sooner than eight weeks from the date the original notification was submitted. If the member of staff does not choose a start date then the leave will begin on the first leave date requested in the original notification.

7.0 Responding to a Shared Parental Leave notification

All notices for continuous leave will be confirmed in writing.

All requests for discontinuous leave will be carefully considered on a case by case basis, weighing up the potential benefits to the member of staff and to the University against any adverse impact to the business. Agreeing to one request will not set a precedent or create the right for another member of staff to be granted a similar pattern of SPL. The member of staff will be informed in writing of the decision as soon as is reasonably practicable, but no later than the fourteenth day after the leave notification was received. The request may be granted in full or in part: for example, the University may propose a modified version of the request.

8.0 Variations to arranged Shared Parental Leave

The member of staff is permitted to vary or cancel an agreed and booked period of SPL, provided that they advise the University in writing at least eight weeks before the date of any variation. Any new start date cannot be sooner than eight weeks from the date of the variation request.

Any variation or cancellation notification made by the member of staff, including notice to return to work early, will usually count as a new notification reducing the member of staff’s right to book/vary leave by one. However, a change as a result of a child being born early, or as a result of the University requesting it be changed, and the member of staff being agreeable to the change, will not count as further notification. Any variation will be confirmed in writing by the University.

9.0 Shared Parental Leave Pay (SPLP)/ Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)

Eligible members of staff may be entitled to:

6 weeks leave on full pay (inclusive of statutory Shared Parental Pay);

Followed by 16 weeks leave on half pay (plus in addition to this, the lower rate of ShPP);

Followed by 15 weeks at the lower rate of ShPP;

Plus up to 13 further weeks of unpaid leave

Or

14 weeks on full pay (inclusive of ShPP)

Followed by the lower rate of ShPP for 23 weeks

Plus up to 13 weeks unpaid leave

Please note that the above options reflect the fact that the first two weeks leave and pay are reserved for the compulsory maternity /adoption period. The remaining amount of weeks available will depend on the amount by which the mother/adopter reduces their maternity/adoption pay period or maternity allowance period.

It is the employee’s choice whether they choose the first or second option in regard to occupational shared parental pay (SPLP). ShPP commences on day one of shared parental leave regardless of which option is chosen and runs concurrently with occupational shared parental pay.

To qualify for the above options, 12 months continuous service is required before the expected week of childbirth/expected week of placement (in the case of adoption). Employees who are not eligible for SPLP will receive up to 37 weeks ShPP while taking SPL if they are eligible.

SPLP/ShPP may be payable during some or all of SPL, depending on the length and timing of the leave.

In addition to meeting the eligibility requirements for SPL, a member of staff seeking to claim SPLP/ShPP must further satisfy each of the following criteria:

  • the mother/adopter must be/have been entitled to statutory maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance and must have reduced their maternity/adoption pay period or maternity allowance period;
  • the member of staff must intend to care for the child during the week in which SPLP/ShPP is payable;
  • the member of staff must have average weekly earnings for the period of eight weeks leading up to and including the 15th week before the child’s expected due date/matching date that are not less than the lower earnings limit in force for national insurance contributions;
  • the member of staff must remain in continuous employment until the first week of SPLP/ShPP has begun;
  • the member of staff must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the fifteenth week before the child’s expected due date/matching date
  • the member of staff must give proper notification in accordance with the rules set out below.
  • the employee’s partner must (in the 66 weeks leading up to the expected due date/matching date) have worked for at least 26 weeks and earned an average of at least £30 (as of 2015) a week in any 13 weeks.

Where a member of staff is entitled to receive SPLP/ ShPP they must, at least eight weeks before receiving any SPLP/ShPP, give their line manager written notice advising of their entitlement to SPLP/ShPP. To avoid duplication, if possible, this should be included as part of the notice of entitlement to take SPL.

In addition to what must be included in the notice of entitlement to take SPL, any notice that advises of an entitlement for SPLP/ShPP must include:

  • the start and end dates of any maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance;
  • the total amount of SPLP/ShPP available, the amount of SPLP/ShPP the member of staff and their partner each intend to claim, and a non-binding indication of when the member of staff expects to claim SPLP/ShPP;
  • a signed declaration from the member of staff confirming that the information they have given is correct, that they meet, or will meet, the criteria for SPLP/ShPP and that they will immediately inform the University should they cease to be eligible.

It must be accompanied by a signed declaration from the member of staff’s partner confirming:

  • their agreement to the member of staff claiming SPLP/ShPP and for the University to process any SPLP/ShPP payments to the member of staff;
  • (in the case where the partner is the mother/ adopter) that they have reduced their maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance;
  • (in the case where the partner is the mother/ adopter) that they will immediately inform their partner should they cease to satisfy the eligibility conditions.

Any ShPP due will be paid at a rate set by the Government for the relevant tax year.

10.0 Terms and conditions during Shared Parental Leave

During the period of SPL, the member of staff's contract of employment continues in force and they are entitled to receive all their contractual benefits, except for salary. In particular, any benefits in kind (such as use of a company car, laptop, mobile phone and gym membership) will continue.

When an employee is in a salary sacrifice arrangement, this will continue during shared parental leave/transfer of shared parental leave to the partner. If the value of the salary sacrifice is greater than the employee’s pay at any point during the leave, the department will cover the shortfall.

Pension contributions will continue to be made during any period when the member of staff is receiving ShPP/SPLP but not during any period of unpaid SPL. When employees are on unpaid shared parental leave, Pensions+ membership will be suspended. Employee contributions will be based on actual pay, while the University’s contributions will be based on the salary that the member of staff would have received had they not been taking SPL.

10.1 Annual Leave

SPL is granted in addition to normal annual holiday entitlement. Annual leave entitlement, plus customary and public holidays are accrued during shared parental leave. However annual leave cannot be carried over from one holiday year to the next and if your shared parental leave will fall over two holiday years, it is advisable that you take any outstanding entitlement before commencing your shared parental leave.

10.2 Contact during Shared Parental Leave

Before SPL begins, the University will discuss the arrangements to keep in touch during the leave. The University reserves the right in any event to maintain reasonable contact with the member of staff from time to time during their SPL. This may be to discuss the member of staff's plans to return to work, to ensure the individual is aware of any possible promotion opportunities, to discuss any special arrangements to be made or training to be given to ease their return to work or simply to update them on developments at work during their absence.

10.3 Shared Parental Leave in Touch days

A member of staff can agree to work for up to 20 days during SPL without bringing their period of SPL to an end or impacting on their right to claim ShPP/SPLP for that week. These days are in addition to the 10 ‘keeping in touch’ (or KIT) days already available to those on maternity or adoption leave. These are known as "Shared Parental Leave In Touch" or "SPLIT" days. Any work carried out on a day or part of a day shall constitute a day's work for these purposes.

The University has no right to require the member of staff to carry out any work, and is under no obligation to offer the member of staff any work during the member of staff’s SPL. Any work undertaken is a matter for agreement between the University and the member of staff. SPLIT days must be authorised by the Head of Department. The type of work may be normal day to day activity to assist the return to work process; enabling attendance at a conference, undertaking a training activity or attending a team meeting, for example. SPLIT days do not normally involve working from home, such as checking emails.

SPLIT days are paid at the normal daily rate (based on 1/260th of the annual salary) and can be paid in full or half days only.

If the employee is receiving SPLP/ShPP at the time of any SPLIT days, they will continue to do so as normal. Payments for SPLIT days will not exceed full pay and the staff member cannot be paid more than one day’s pay. This is applicable if the staff member works a SPLIT day when they are still in receipt of full pay via SPLP. If SPLP has reduced to half plus the lower rate of ShPP, the employee’s pay will be increased up to their normal rate when a SPLIT day is used. If the employee is in the unpaid period of shared parental leave, their normal rate will be processed in this event. This arrangement only applies to SPLIT days.

Shared parental leave start and end dates are not affected by SPLIT days as these form part of the whole shared parental leave package and can only be taken during shared parental leave.

SPLIT days are non pensionable.

SPLIT days can be taken at any point during shared parental leave (paid or unpaid) by agreement with the University with the exception of the two weeks following the birth of the child (child’s mother) or during the statutory two weeks minimum of adoption leave, if the employee is an adopter. If the employee is the father or mother/adopter’s partner, they can take SPLIT days immediately following the birth/placement of the child once the mother/adopter has given notice to end maternity or adoption leave.

Managers should promptly inform their payroll contact of any SPLIT days worked to ensure payment is made for them correctly.

11.0 Returning to work after Shared Parental Leave

The member of staff will have been formally advised in writing by the University of the end date of any period and will be expected to return on the next working day after this date, unless they notify otherwise. If they are unable to attend work due to sickness or injury, the University’s normal arrangements for sickness absence will apply. In any other case, late return without prior authorisation will be treated as unauthorised absence.

If the member of staff wishes to return to work earlier than the expected return date, they may provide a written notice to vary the leave and must give the University at least eight weeks notice of their date of early return. This will count as one of the member of staff’s notifications. If they have already used their three notifications to book and/or vary leave then the University does not have to accept the notice to return early but may do if it is considered to be reasonably practicable to do so.