Working parents

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What is shared parental leave?

Pregnant woman

SPL (Shared parental leave) is a statutory right which provides eligible parents with more flexibility in how they share the care of their child in the first year following birth or adoption.

SPL allows for a maximum of up to 50 weeks’ leave to be shared between parents. They can decide to be off work at the same time or take it in turns to be on leave to look after their child. The information below explains this entitlement, which was implemented in April 2015.

If you are a BMA member with questions about SPL and related issues, please contact one of our employment advisers.

Are you a junior doctor? From 1 April 2019, new entitlements come into force. Read our guidance on SPL for junior doctors.

  • Eligibility for SPL

    What makes a parent eligible to apply for SPL?

    • Each parent must qualify separately for SPL and ShPP (statutory shared parental pay)
    • To qualify for SPL you must share responsibility for the child with one of the following – your husband, wife, civil partner or joint adopter
    • The child’s other parent
    • Their partner (if they live with you and the child)

    One of those applying must be eligible for maternity pay or leave, adoption pay or leave, or the maternity allowance.

    Note: where only one parent is eligible for SPL and ShPP, they will not be able to share the leave.

    You can also check your leave and pay eligibility by using the eligibility checker


    To apply for SPL you must meet these conditions:

    • You as the mother or adopter, or your partner must be eligible for maternity pay or leave, adoption pay or leave or maternity allowance
    • A parent wishing to take SPL must be an employee and stay with the same employer while taking SPL
    • An employee must have been continuously employed by the same employer for a minimum of 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date or matching date for adoption
    • An employee’s partner must meet the ‘employment and earnings test’.
    • An employee must correctly notify the employer of their entitlement and provide evidence as required.

    Please note:

    The employment and earnings test requires that in the 66 weeks before the week the baby is due (or the week you are matched with their adopted child) you must have worked for at least 26 weeks and earned an average of at least £30 in 13 of those 66 weeks. This can be as an employee, worker or self-employed.

    • This period of 26 weeks of work does not have to be in a consecutive block.
    • The figure of £30 is correct as of April 2015 but may change annually.
    • The partner does not have to be working at the date of birth or when SPL or ShPP starts.


    What must I do to start SPL?

    • To start SPL mothers must end maternity leave
    • To start ShPP mothers must end maternity allowance or maternity pay
    • For those adopting, the adoption leave or adoption pay must end


    How do I reduce or end my entitlement to maternity or adoption leave?

    By returning to work before the full entitlement of 52 weeks has been taken, or by giving at least eight weeks’ notice to curtail their leave at a specified future date.  


    What happens if I am not entitled to maternity or adoption leave but am entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP), statutory adoption pay (SAP) or maternity allowance (MA)?

    You must reduce your entitlement to less than the 39 weeks. If they do this, their partner may be entitled to up to 50 weeks of SPL. 

    The amount of leave available is calculated by deducting from 52 weeks the number of weeks of SMP, SAP or MA taken by the mother or adopter.

    If your are not entitled to maternity or adoption leave, the SPL will be 52 weeks minus any weeks of maternity pay, maternity allowance or adoption pay.

  • Taking SPL

    When can SPL be taken?

    SPL can be taken at any time in the first year following the child’s birth or placement.

    However, please note that it is mandatory for a woman giving birth to take two weeks’ maternity leave after the birth. You can then claim SPL by returning to work.

    If adopting, one parent must take at least two weeks of adoption leave before SPL can begin.

    Your partner can take SPL immediately following the birth/placement of the child, but may first choose to exhaust any paternity leave entitlements.

    Your partner cannot take paternity leave, or pay, once they have taken any SPL or ShPP (statutory shared parental pay).

    As a mother you must have given binding notice to end maternity or adoption leave which means it cannot be changed.

    SPL will generally begin on the your chosen start date as notified to the employer, or in any subsequent variation notice.

    If the you give notice to curtail your maternity or adoption entitlement, your partner can take leave while your are still using your maternity or adoption entitlements.

    In all cases, it is best to have an early and informal discussion with your employer, as this allows you to discuss when and how SPL can be taken. It is also an opportunity to seek clarification of your statutory and contractual rights.

    You should ensure you are familiar with your employer’s policy before such a meeting.


    Need more help?

    If you are a BMA member with questions about SPL and related issues, please call one of our employment advisers on 0300 123 1233  between 08.30 to 18.00 Monday to Friday, excluding UK Bank Holidays. Or email a BMA employment adviser providing your membership number in the subject line.


  • SPL and paternity leave

    If you meet the criteria, your right to request paternity leave is not affected by the introduction of SPL. However, if your child was due or placed for adoption after 5 April 2015, you are no longer entitled to up to 26 weeks’ additional paternity leave.

  • Preparing to give notice to take leave

    What is involved in giving notice to take leave?

    In addition to notifying your employer of your entitlement to SPL or ShPP you must also give notice to take the leave.

    In many cases, notice to take leave will be given at the same time as the notice of entitlement to SPL, however, the notice of entitlement is not binding and so it may be wise to provide further notice of the intended dates.


    How much notice do I need to give before a block of leave begins?

    You must give at least eight weeks’ notice before a block of leave begins. If the child is born more than eight weeks early, this notice period can be shorter.


    How quickly will my employer respond to my booking notice?

    Your employer should respond to your notice and it should be dealt with no later than the 14th day after the leave request was made. In their response they will confirm the date that you are expected to return to work. All notices for continuous leave should be confirmed in writing. The request may be granted in full or in part: for example, the employer may propose a modified version of the request.


    How many notifications to book leave can I submit?

    You have the right to submit three notifications specifying the leave periods you intend to take. Each notification may contain either: – a single period of weeks of continuous leave; or
    – two or more weeks of discontinuous leave where you intend to return to work between periods of leave.


    What is the minimum duration of an SPL period?

    SPL can only be taken in complete weeks but it 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 an employee returns to work between periods of SPL, the next period of SPL can start on any day of the week.

  • Discussing SPL with your employer

    When should I approach my employer to discuss SPL?

    If you are considering taking SPL you are encouraged to contact your employer to arrange an informal discussion as early as possible to talk about your plans and to enable your employer, where possible, to support you.

    If you are entitled to and intending to take SPL, you must notify your employer at least eight weeks before you intend to take SPL.


    What information may my employer request?

    • the name and business address of the partner’s employer (where the employee’s partner is no longer employed or is self-employed their contact details must be given instead
    • in the case of biological parents, a copy of the child’s birth certificate (or, where one has not been issued, a declaration as to the time and place of the birth)
    • in the case of an adopted child, documentary evidence of the name and address of the adoption agency, the date on which they were notified of having been matched with the child and the date on which the agency expects to place the child for adoption
    • In order to be entitled to SPL, the employee must produce this information within 14 days of the employer’s request


    Discussions with your employer

    Once your employer has received your period of leave application they will usually arrange a meeting to discuss it. Where a notice is for a single period of continuous leave, or where a request for discontinuous leave can be approved without further discussion, a meeting may not be necessary.


    If a meeting is required, when will it take place?

    You will be given reasonable notice of the meeting, which should be held as soon as is reasonably possible. This meeting can be face to face or over the phone.


    Can I bring a representative to the meeting?

    There is no statutory right to be accompanied at a meeting to discuss leave arrangements, but your employer may agree to your request.


    What is the purpose of the meeting?

    To discuss the leave proposed and what will happen while you are away from work. If requesting discontinuous leave, the discussion may also focus on how the leave proposal could be agreed, whether a modified arrangement would be agreeable to you and your employer, and what the outcome may be if no agreement is reached.


    What if there is a change of mind and I want to remain on maternity leave?

    You may be able to change your decision to end maternity or adoption leave early if: 

    • the planned end date hasn’t passed
    • you haven’t already returned to work
    • it’s discovered during the eight-week notice period that neither partner is eligible for either SPL or ShPP
    • or your partner has died
    • or it’s less than six weeks after the birth (and you gave notice before the birth).

    What would I need to do if I changed my mind?

    You would need to notify your employer.

  • Making SPL work for you

    What SPL can I take and how?

    If you’re eligible, and you, or your partner end maternity or adoption leave and pay (or maternity allowance) early, you can take:

    • the rest of the 52 weeks of maternity or adoption leave as SPL (ie up to 50 weeks)
    • the rest of the 39 weeks of maternity or adoption pay (or maternity allowance) as ShPP

    You can apply for leave to be taken as either a continuous block of leave or discontinuous blocks of leave.


    What is continuous leave?

    Continuous leave is taken in complete weeks without a return to work in-between.

    You have a statutory right to take the leave this way. You need to give written notice of entitlement at least eight weeks before you intend to take the leave.

    Written notices of entitlement must contain specific information for the employer.  Many employers will have a template for parents to use. 

    If not and if you are a BMA member, one of our advisers can assist you to provide the correct information, but it is important that if you are interested in making an application for SPL that you consider this process in good time. If, however, your child arrives earlier than the due date and you have already notified your employer the date you intend to start your leave, then you can simply send them an amended or varied notice bringing forward the start date.

    If the baby arrives before you have served notice then the 8 week notice period may be reduced to accommodate your needs.

    Please note: the full eight weeks’ notice will be required if you decide to make any changes to how much SPL you intend to take.

    If you are a BMA member and have any questions about this please contact one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233.


    What are discontinuous blocks of leave?

    Discontinuous blocks of leave can be requested in blocks with a return to work in-between. Up to three separate notices (each of eight weeks) can be given.

    The employer may accept more, or may accept one that covers all of the discontinuous blocks.

    There is a 14-calendar-day period from the date of the request to discuss the request. If the request is not agreed then the total amount of leave in the request must be taken as one continuous block unless the employee withdraws their notice and submits a new request.

    Note: SPL and ShPP must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday – or within one year of adoption; if it is not, it will be lost.


    How many blocks of leave can I take?

    Eligible employees have a statutory right to a maximum of three separate blocks of leave. If both parents are taking SPL they can take their leave at the same time as each other or at different times.


    Can I split the blocks of leave?

    Yes, if your employer agrees, you can split a block of leave into shorter periods of at least a week. For example, you could work every other week during a 12-week block, using a total of six weeks of your SPL.


    Can my employer turn down a request for a block of leave?

    No, your employer can’t turn down a request for a block of leave if you are eligible and you have given the right notice. However, your employer can refuse to break the block of leave into shorter periods if it has a detrimental impact on the service.

    The employer will consider a discontinuous leave notification on a case-by-case basis, weighing up the potential benefits to the employee and themselves against any potential adverse impact to the service. However, the employer has the right to refuse it.

    If the leave pattern is refused, you can either withdraw it within 15 days of giving it, or take the leave in a single continuous block.

    Please note: the employer agreeing to one request for discontinuous leave will not set a precedent, or create the right for another employee to be granted a similar pattern of SPL.


    What happens if my notice for a discontinuous leave pattern is refused?

    You may withdraw the request (in writing) without detriment on or before the 15th day after the notification was given. Alternatively, you may take the total number of weeks in the notice in a single continuous block.

    If you withdraw the request you are entitled to make a further three requests.

    If you do choose to take the leave in a single continuous block, you have until the 19th day from the date the original notification was given, to choose when you want the leave period to begin.

    The leave cannot start sooner than eight weeks from the date the original notification was submitted. If you do not choose a start date, the leave will begin on the first leave date requested in the original notification.

    Your employer should confirm what has been agreed in respect of the request and how many requests are now available to you.


    Can my employer refuse SPL or ShPP?

    Yes, if you do not qualify for SPL or ShPP your employer will refuse your request.Your employer must tell you the reason for refusing ShPP, however, they are not required to give you a reason for refusing SPL.


    Variations to arranged SPL

    You can vary or cancel an agreed and booked period of SPL, provided you advise the employer 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 variations should be confirmed in writing.


    Will the variation or cancellation notification, including notice to return to work early, count as one of my three requests available?

    Normally it will. However, a change as a result of a child being born early, or as a result of the employer requesting it to be changed (that the employee agrees to), will not count as further notification.

  • SPL and annual leave

    Will I continue to accrue annual leave while I am on SPL?

    Employees accrue their contractual entitlement to annual leave during paid and unpaid SPL.


    Do I continue to accrue general public holidays during SPL?

    The treatment of public holiday entitlement during the SPL varies between employers. Some will allow it to accrue based on the number of general public holidays that fall within the period of leave (pro rata for part-time staff). Others will regard it as a right to pay on specific days and as rights to pay are excluded during the SPL there will be no accrual.


    Can I carry over outstanding annual leave to the following leave year?

    It is important that arrangements for taking annual leave are discussed well in advance of the start of SPL and recorded.


    Does my leave count as service for the purposes of calculating my annual leave entitlement?

    Yes. Leave will count as service for entitlement to additional annual leave based on service.


    If things change do I need to notify my employer during leave?

    Yes. If an employee’s rights and requirements regarding SPL and ShPP change, they are requested to notify their employer as soon as reasonably possible in writing. In these circumstances, the employer will abide by any statutory obligations and an employee should clarify any issues or queries with their employer who may seek further advice from the HR team.

  • Pensions and SPL

    Will my pension contributions continue to be paid while I am on SPL?

    Because both paid and unpaid SPL are counted as continuous service, contributions to the NHS Pension Scheme can be maintained for the full period.

    Pension rights or contributions will be dealt with in accordance with the provision of the NHS Pension Scheme Regulations.


    How are pension payments arranged during and after SPL?

    While an employee is receiving ShPP, contributions will be deducted from their salary based on payments received. As no contributions can be made while they are on unpaid SPL, these must be reimbursed to the scheme on their return to work. Therefore, on their return additional contributions will be deducted from the employee’s salary until the shortfall has been paid. Employees are advised to contact the pensions officer for further specific information.

    Read more of our pensions guidance


    Need more help?

    If you are a BMA member with questions about SPL and related issues, please call one of our employment advisers on 0300 123 1233  between 08.30 to 18.00 Monday to Friday, excluding UK Bank Holidays. Or email a BMA employment adviser providing your membership number in the subject line.


  • Managing SPL and KiT days

    How do I keep in touch with my employer during my SPL?

    Before your leave begins, you and your employer will discuss ways to keep in touch during your leave. Your employer may contact you from time to time during your SPL where it is reasonable, particularly in relation to your plans to return to work, and to update you on work-related matters or to discuss changes at work.


    Can I come into work during my SPL?

    Yes, you can agree to work for your employer (or attend training) for up to 20 days during SPL without bringing your period of SPL to an end or impacting your right to claim ShPP for that week. These are known as SPLIT days.

    Note: Any work carried out on a day or part of a day constitutes a day’s work for these purposes.


    Do I have to do SPLIT days?

    No, SPLIT days are voluntary.


    If I want to do SPLIT days, can my employer say no?

    Your employer is not obligated to offer you any work during your SPL but requests should not be unreasonably refused.


    What pay will I receive for working a SPLIT day?

    You will normally receive full pay for any day worked but this should be checked with your employer. If a SPLIT day occurs during a week when you are receiving ShPP, this will be effectively ‘topped up’ so that you receive full pay for the day.


    Does my SPL period extend by the number of SPLIT days worked?

    No, any SPLIT days worked do not extend the period of SPL.


    Can I work part of a week using SPLIT days?

    Yes, with the agreement of your employer. Further, if you agree this with your employer, you can use SPLIT days to make a gradual return to work towards the end of a long period of SPL or to trial a possible flexible working pattern.


    Can I still take my KIT days during maternity leave if I use SPLIT days?

    Yes, SPLIT days are in addition to the 10 KIT days already available to those on maternity or adoption leave.

  • SPL and ShPP entitlement

    How much ShPP am I entitled to whilst on SPL?

    Eligible employees may be entitled to take up to 39 weeks of Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) while taking SPL. The amount of weeks available will depend on the amount by which the mother or adopter reduces their maternity or adoption pay period or maternity allowance period.

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


    Eligibility for ShPP

    In addition to meeting the eligibility requirements for SPL, an employee seeking to claim ShPP must also satisfy the following criteria:

    • the mother or adopter must be or have been entitled to, statutory maternity or adoption pay or maternity allowance and must have reduced their maternity or adoption pay period or maternity allowance period
    • the employee must intend to care for the child during the week in which ShPP is payable
    • the employee 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 or matching date for adoption – that are not less than the lower earnings limit in force for national insurance contributions (see supplement for most up-to-date rate).
    • the employee must remain in continuous employment until the first week of ShPP has begunthe employee must give proper notification in accordance with the rules set out below.


    Notice requirements for ShPP

    Where an employee is entitled to receive ShPP they must, at least eight weeks before receiving any ShPP, give their employer written notice advising of their entitlement to ShPP.


    How much will I be paid?

    Any ShPP due will be paid at a rate set by the Government for the relevant tax year, (see supplement for most up-to-date rate) or 90 per cent of an employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

    For details of the current maternity leave and pay entitlements see or if you are a BMA member, please phone our advisers on 0300 123 1233 .


    NHS employees

    There are no special provisions included in the NHS terms and conditions of service for SPL and NHS Employers advise NHS Trusts to have appropriate policies dealing with leave.  Where there is no reference in Trust policies, the statutory provisions will apply. Where doctors are employed by other employers they should check that employer’s policy.

    If you are a BMA member with questions about SPL and related issues, please call one of our employment advisers on 0300 123 1233  between 08.30 to 18.00 Monday to Friday, excluding UK Bank Holidays. Or email a BMA employment adviser providing your membership number in the subject line.



    If your employer does not provide templates for you to provide notification of eligibility or notice of intent to take SPL then please use the following link and download the templates at the bottom of the page page. templates

  • Returning to work after SPL

    When will I return to work after SPL?

    You will have been advised in writing by your employer of the end date of any period of SPL. You are expected to return on the next working day after this date, unless your employer notifies otherwise.


    Can I return to work earlier?

    Yes, but you must provide a written notice to vary your leave and you must give at least eight weeks’ notice of your date of early return.


    Does this count as one of my notifications?

    Yes, if you have already used your three notifications to book or vary leave then your employer does not have to accept the notice to return early but may do if it is considered reasonably practicable to do so.


    What job will I return to?

    Where your aggregate total statutory maternity or paternity or adoption leave and SPL amounts to 26 weeks or less, you are entitled to return to the same job that you occupied immediately before commencing maternity or paternity or adoption leave on the same terms and conditions of employment.

    Where your maternity or paternity or adoption leave and SPL amounts to 26 weeks or more in aggregate, you are entitled to return to the same job you held before commencing the last period of leave or – if this is not reasonably practicable – to another job which is both suitable and appropriate and on terms and conditions no less favourable.


    What happens if I have taken an additional period of unpaid parental leave of four weeks or less?

    This will have no effect on your right to return and you will still be entitled to return to the same job as you occupied before taking the last period of leave if the aggregate weeks of maternity or paternity or adoption and SPL do not exceed 26 weeks.