New parents will now be able to share time off more equally after their baby is born, thanks to a change in the law.
How does it work?
If you’re a new mum or dad, Shared Parental Leave (SPL) means you can have more flexibility with the time you’ll be able have off after your baby is born – mums don’t always have to be the one who stays at home.
So, if you have a baby on or after 5 April 2015, or adopt a child on or after this date, you could be eligible for SPL. In a nutshell, it means that you and your partner can either both be off at the same time or take it in turns to look after your baby.
For new mums, you’ll still have to take a minimum of two weeks’ maternity leave after you’ve given birth – or four weeks if you work in a factory – and new dads will also still get two weeks’ paternity leave. After this, parents will be able to share up to 50 weeks off work, which can either be taken in one go, or in smaller ‘blocks’ of leave.
This means that if you’re a new mum and you decide to take off two weeks before your baby is born and eight weeks after, you and your partner could then use the rest of the 42 weeks as SPL. You could both take off some of this time together, or you could return to work for a few weeks and then have more time off with your baby. You can book up to three separate blocks of SPL, though your employer may let you break your time off into more blocks.
What’s the catch?
You do have to meet some criteria to be eligible. You need to have been working for your employer for at least 26 continuous weeks by the end of the 15th week before your due date, and you’ll have to be employed by the same company while you take SPL. Your partner must have been working for at least 26 weeks out of the 66 weeks before the baby is due, and they’ll have to have earned at least £30 a week on average for 13 of these 66 weeks.
Managing your budget
Managing time off isn’t the only concern for new parents, as one of the hardest things you might have to cope with is the drop in your household earnings when you move onto maternity or paternity leave pay. If you decide to use SPL, you’ll be eligible for the Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) for up to 37 weeks after you’ve been paid your Statutory Maternity Pay or Statutory Paternity Pay. ShPP will be either £138.18 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower amount. This means that whether you or your partner stays off with the baby, you’ll need to be prepared to manage your budget on a lower income.
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