Shared Parental Leave (SPL)

It is essential that you read all the guidance in these Shared Parental Leave pages.

What is Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and how does the scheme work?

The SPL and Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) statutory scheme enables eligible parents, if they so wish, to share a period of leave and pay in the 52 weeks immediately following the birth or adoption of their child.

If both parents meet the eligibility criteria, the mother/primary adopter has the option to end their maternity or adoption leave/pay or allowance early and to convert any ‘unused’ part of that leave and/or pay into SPL and ShPP. A mother or primary adopter must take the first two weeks following the birth or placement of the child as compulsory maternity or adoption leave. After that, maternity or adoption leave and pay may be curtailed and eligible parents may split the remainder of the 52 week leave and 39 week pay entitlement, ie up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay, between them.

The minimum amount of SPL and ShPP that can be taken is one week. SPL can only be taken in blocks of complete weeks.

Any time spent on maternity or adoption leave by the mother or the primary adopter will reduce the amount of SPL available by that amount. For example, where the mother curtails her maternity leave after the 20th week, the entitlement to SPL is reduced by that amount, leaving 32 weeks’ leave for the parents to share and take as SPL.

Unlike maternity and adoption leave, time spent on paternity leave will not reduce the amount of SPL and ShPP available. However, any untaken paternity leave entitlement will be lost as soon as the father/mother’s partner starts a period of SPL.

The scheme allows parents the opportunity to start and stop their shared leave and to return to work between the periods of leave. Parents are not obliged to take SPL.

When can SPL begin?

Employees must satisfy the qualifying conditions for SPL and they must comply with the notification requirements, as outlined in 'SPL notifications - birth' or 'SPL notifications - adoption' sections of this guidance. SPL cannot begin before the birth or placement for adoption, or until the end of the compulsory two-week maternity or adoption leave period.

NB The other parent may be eligible to take SPL before the mother’s maternity leave ends, provided that the mother has given her curtailment notice (ie has committed to end her maternity leave on a future date).

How can a period of SPL and pay be shared between the parents?

In order to share a period of SPL and/or pay each parent must qualify for SPL separately, ie in their own right.

After the two-week compulsory maternity or adoption leave, eligible parents may curtail their maternity or adoption leave and pay (or allowance) and take the remaining balance as SPL. Parents have a maximum entitlement of 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay to share between them, as they see fit. Eligible parents can request to take SPL in one continuous block of leave or they can request to book it in discontinuous blocks (ie split into shorter, discontinuous periods, with periods at work in between). Parents have the option of taking the leave together or at separate times. All periods of SPL must be taken in the 52 weeks immediately following the birth or adoption of the child.

Requests for a continuous block of leave will be automatically approved (as is the case with maternity leave), provided the necessary notifications have been given. However, if employees wish to take SPL in discontinuous blocks, they should discuss this with their department informally first, before submitting the request, as it may not always be operationally possible for the department to agree to this. Departments will not unreasonably refuse a request for discontinuous leave, and they may propose an alternative pattern of leave instead.

See the 'SPL notifications - birth' or 'SPL notifications - adoption' sections of this guidance for further notification details.

Below you can find some examples of how SPL and ShPP can be taken.

What happens if one of the parents has multiple employers?

If the mother has multiple jobs, with more than one employer she must give notice to curtail her maternity leave to each of her employers at the same time in order to create leave under the SPL provisions. A mother cannot take SPL if she has only brought forward the date on which her maternity leave period ends with one of her employers (ie it is not possible to take maternity leave and SPL at the same time). The same provisions apply to a primary adopter.

Where an employee (whether the mother or the partner) with multiple employers meets the qualifying criteria for SPL and/or ShPP in their University employment, they can take leave and pay under the SPL arrangements, as normal (subject to the provisions above concerning curtailing maternity leave in all employment). If they also meet the criteria for SPL and/or ShPP from an employment elsewhere, they can take the leave and pay from that employer as well.

An employee with multiple jobs/employers who qualifies for SPL and/or ShPP in respect of each employment, is entitled to take SPL from each of their employers.

SPL examples

Example 1 (continuous block of leave):
Both parents are employees of the University


Mother goes on maternity leave two weeks before the baby is born and remains on maternity leave for a further two weeks following the birth, at full pay.
Father takes two weeks' ordinary paternity leave (OPL) at the time of the birth, at full pay.
Mother ends her maternity leave after a total of four weeks’ maternity leave. SPL begins immediately with a total of 48 weeks’ leave entitlement and 35 weeks’ pay, to be shared by both parents.
Mother and father take SPL together at the same time for 11 weeks at full pay (exhausting 22 weeks of SPL in total).
Father returns to work at the end of the 15th week from when the maternity leave started.
The mother remains on SPL for a further 26 weeks (13 weeks at statutory pay rate and 13 weeks unpaid).

The cost of SPL is met by each employee’s department:

The mother’s department will pay:


Four weeks’ maternity leave at full pay and 11 weeks’ SPL at full pay, 13 weeks at statutory pay rate.

The father’s department will pay:

Two weeks’ OPL at full pay and 11 weeks’ SPL at full pay.

Example 2 (discontinuous blocks of leave):
Partner is the employee of the University


Mother goes on maternity leave two weeks before the baby is born. Following the birth she remains on maternity leave for a further 12 weeks (total of 14 weeks).
Partner takes two weeks' ordinary paternity leave (OPL) at the time of the birth, at full pay and then returns to work immediately.
Mother returns to work after a total period of 14 weeks of maternity leave at which point SPL begins and the father goes on a period of SPL for 12 weeks, at full pay.
Partner returns to work at the end of the 26th week after the maternity leave started, at which point the entitlement to full pay under the University’s scheme has been exhausted.
The mother goes back on SPL (paid at the statutory rate) for a further 13 weeks and then returns to work.
The partner then takes the remaining period of 13 weeks of leave, unpaid.
The cost of the relevant proportion of the SPL taken by the University employee (the partner) is met by the department.

The patner’s department will pay:

Two weeks’ OPL at full pay and 12 weeks’ SPL at full pay.

The mother's employer will pay:

14 weeks' maternity leave at whatever rate she is eligible to receive, 13 weeks' ShPP at the statutory rate of pay.

Further examples can be found in the PDF document on the right-hand side.

Further information

The arrangements for this scheme are complex. This guidance covers general principles and most common scenarios. In the event of complicated cases, departments should contact the relevant HR Business Partner for advice. It may be necessary to seek further advice from the Legal team.

Terminology for the purpose of this guidance

For the purpose of this guidance:

  • ‘mother’ refers to birth mothers;
  • ‘primary adopter’ refers to the designated primary parent in an adopting couple;
  • ‘partner’ refers to the child’s father or the mother’s/primary adopter’s partner (who may be of the same sex), eg spouse, civil or long-term partner, but who is not her relative, ie sibling, child, parent etc;
  • ‘parent(s)’ refers to one of two, or both people (who may be same-sex couples) who will share the main responsibility for the child’s upbringing (and who may be either the mother, the father, or the mother’s partner if not the father, or adoptive parents);
  • qualifying week’ is the 15th week before the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC).