The Shared Parental Leave rules every bookkeeper needs to know

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As the bookkeeper and payroll practitioner there will be an implicit assumption by the employer and employee that you are not only the expert in all things finance and tax related, but that you also possess deep and current knowledge of the Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) rules.

To avoid disappointing your boss and colleagues, below is a quick overview of the rules relating to SPL and ShPP. The rules on SPL and ShPP apply in relation to adoption placements as well as births.

New terms

The first change to note is that the rules and regulations now reflect modern society. No longer are references made solely to ‘husband’ and ‘father’. Now, ‘partner’ is included, and this can be someone of a different sex, or the same sex, who lives with the mother in an enduring family relationship but is not a full blood or half-blood relative. The term ‘parent’ in this article indicates the mother and her partner.

Eligibility criteria

The good news is that the eligibility criteria reflect the existing child related benefit rules:

  • The parent must be in continuous employment for 26 weeks before the start of the qualifying week (15 weeks before the baby is due).
  • Mothers can take up to 52 weeks maternity leave but can only share 50 of those weeks with their partner as the first two weeks after the birth (or four weeks if the mother works in a factory), are compulsory maternity leave for the mother so cannot be shared.
  • The partner is still entitled to two weeks statutory paternity pay and leave and this does not affect the maximum entitlement of SPL.
  • The amount of ShPP is the same as SMP and SPP: 90% of average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, then the lower of 90% average weekly earnings, or £140.98.
  • The partner of the mother also needs to satisfy employment and earnings tests. The person concerned needs to have been an ‘employed earner’ or ‘self-employed earner’ for 26 out of 66 weeks and earned at least £30 in thirteen of these weeks.

Employee choice

The mother can curtail her maternity leave and pay at any time and share what leave is left with her partner as shared parental leave and shared parental pay. The mother and partner need to agree between themselves what they intend to do and then agree it with their respective employers. The parents:

  • Can take SPL and ShPP at the same time, or they can take it consecutively.
  • Can have SPL and ShPP in up to three separate blocks each, or all at once.
  • Must have SPL of at least one week’s duration.
  • Are entitled to SPLIT (Shared Parental Leave Keeping In Touch) days of up to 20 days each. The mother can have these as well as KIT (Keeping In Touch) days.
  • Do not have to have SPLIT days. They are optional, just like KIT days.

The mother can change her mind and revoke the notice. She can do this under the following circumstances:

  • Before the birth, and up to six weeks after the birth.
  • On the death of the partner.

On revocation the mother would revert back to statutory maternity leave and pay.

Employer duty

Once the employer has received the request for SPL, there is a two week discussion period. During this time the employee can withdraw the notice without it counting as one of only three notices of intended leave that are allowed. The employer in that two week period can:

  • Agree to the leave.
  • Suggest alternative dates.
  • Refuse the proposed periods of leave.

If no agreement can be reached then the leave must be taken in one continuous period.

If the parent is not entitled to either SPL or ShPP then the employer has the right to refuse the request. The employer must give a reason for denial of ShPP, but no reason need be given for the denial of SPL.

Evidence of birth

Within 14 days of the date that the mother gives notice of intention to take SPL the employer may request a copy of the child’s birth certificate. The same rule applies to a partner wishing to take SPL.

Paying ShPP

ShPP is calculated in the normal way for any child related absence. The rules for the application of backdated pay are the same as those for statutory paternity pay (not statutory maternity pay as mothers are eligible only).

Keeping records

Who keeps what records depends on whether the bookkeeper is an employee or an agent of the employer. However, the minimum that both should keep are:

  • The date the leave started and finished.
  • The amounts of SMP and ShPP paid.
  • Any weeks that were not paid.
  • Amounts claimed back from HMRC, and when.

The employer should keep the original requests, and all documentation should be kept for at least three years after the end of the current tax year.

To help calculate shared parental leave and pay use Basic Payroll Tools (BPT) calculator, downloadable from the website where you will find further help, literature and interactive help.

Julie Hodgskin is a fellow member of AAT, runs a licensed accounting practice and is a technical materials author for CIPP.

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