Working parents Junior doctor England

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Enhanced shared parental leave for junior doctors


Currently only basic statutory pay for shared parental leave has been available to doctors, rather than enhanced occupational pay such as for maternity leave. This means that doctors will generally be financially worse off if they choose to split their year of leave between two parents rather than one parent taking a full year.

From 1 April 2019, shared parental pay in England will be enhanced to the same levels as occupational maternity and adoption pay, meaning parents can make a choice based on what is best for them.

Junior doctors committee first advocated for occupational shared parental leave and pay as part of the contract negotiations that took place in 2016, and after two years of lobbying the Department of Health and Social Care agreed to extend this benefit not only for junior doctors but for all NHS staff across England. 


The effect of the changes

The maternity leave section of the NHS terms and conditions handbook, which is shared with the 2016 junior doctor contract, has been updated to include the new shared parental leave enhancement.

Enhancing statutory rates of shared parental pay gives couples more choice over who takes leave and how it is taken after the birth or adoption of a child. It is an important first step towards addressing the imbalance in unpaid caring responsibilities between men and women which influences the gender pay gap, and the BMA will continue working to build on this progress. 


The key changes

  • The rate of pay for shared parental leave is now equivalent to the rate paid for occupational maternity leave, which means it corresponds to what NHS staff actually earn and not a statutory minimum
  • Junior doctors with rotational training contracts are now eligible for the equivalent to statutory pay for maternity, adoption and shared parental leave as well
  • The staff handbook has new sections on fostering for adoption, overseas adoption and surrogacy to ensure clarity and protection for staff with all types of family
  • There is a new requirement for staff to receive a day or half day of paid leave in lieu if they work a KiT (keeping in touch) or SPLiT (shared parental leave in touch) day on a paid or half paid day of their leave period
  • There is a new section on continuity of service clarifying that breaks in service while on approved OOP (out of programme), on an honorary contract or in a placement with a non-NHS employer in a crown dependency will be disregarded so they don’t affect eligibility for maternity, adoption and shared parental leave 
  • There is no requirement to provide additional evidence to access the occupational pay rights. Staff just need to provide the statutory notifications and NHS Employers have agreed to use the standard forms available on GOV.UK
  • Enhanced shared parental pay can be applied retrospectively, if someone is already on maternity or shared parental leave on 1 April when the new benefit comes into effect 

2018 review of the junior doctor contract

This is an early positive result from the 2018 review of the junior doctor contract in England being undertaken by the BMA, NHS Employers and the Department of Health and Social Care. One of five thematic workgroups that formed to progress the review in 2018 was focused on LTFT training and flexible working and equalities. The group agreed joint recommendations to improve the maternity, adoption and shared parental leave and pay offer for trainees. 

Further information

  • What is shared parental leave?

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

    It was introduced in 2015, and 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. They can use SPL to take leave in blocks separated by periods of work, or take it all in one go. 

    Find out more about shared parental leave for all doctors

  • Eligibility

    To be eligible, each parent must qualify separately for SPL and pay. The mother or primary adopter must be eligible for maternity or adoption leave or pay, and you can share parental leave with either your husband, wife, partner, civil partner or joint adopter, or the child’s other parent.

    To be eligible for statutory shared parental leave and pay, you each need to have been employed for a minimum period of time with a single employer (it doesn’t have to be the same employer as your partner) and meet a minimum earnings threshold. To take shared parental leave the mother or primary adopter must agree to curtail their maternity or adoption leave – there is no option for either parent to take SPL unless they decide they would prefer to do this. There are a number of standard forms that are completed by both parents to apply for shared parental leave and pay.

  • What is the rate of pay?

    Statutory pay for shared parental leave is £145.18 a week. The first two weeks of maternity and adoption leave are compulsory so the maximum amount that can be converted into shared parental leave that either parent can take is 50 weeks and the maximum period of statutory shared parental pay available is 37 weeks. 

    The change that has now come into effect means that in the NHS if maternity or adoption leave is converted into shared parental leave, the occupational pay entitlement can be shared too.

    Maternity and adoption leave in the NHS are paid at the following rates:

    1. 8 weeks’ full pay including statutory pay
    2. 18 weeks’ half pay plus statutory pay;
    3. followed by 13 weeks at statutory pay; and
    4. 13 weeks of unpaid leave

    This means minus the two weeks of compulsory maternity or adoption leave the maximum amount of occupational pay that can be used for shared parental leave is:

    1. 6 weeks’ full pay including statutory pay
    2. 18 weeks’ half pay plus statutory pay;
    3. followed by 13 weeks at statutory pay; and
    4. 13 weeks that are unpaid

    The actual amount available will depend on how much of the entitlement has been used or plans to be used for maternity or adoption leave. 

    Note that fathers and partners also have separate existing entitlements to two weeks’ paternity leave that can be taken around the time of the birth or adoption which is paid at full pay (including statutory pay) in the NHS.