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Few families are taking up the opportunity of sharing their parental leave after they’ve had a baby, according to new research. Only one in 100 men are applying for Shared Parental Leave (SPL), with six out of ten men saying that their partners preferred to take all the time off themselves.

With that said, another potential reason why not many men are taking more time off after having a baby could be that they just don’t understand the rules of SPL. To make sure you’re fully aware of what SPL is and how it could benefit your family, we’re going to take you through the basics.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

SPL came into force on 5 April 2015 and enables couples to divide up nearly all of the traditional maternity leave entitlement between the two of them. It’s also available for couples adopting a child.

SPL must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday or within one year of adoption. Parents can share up to 50 weeks leave between them (excluding the two weeks leave that is compulsory for all mothers) and get paid for up to 37 weeks. So, if a mother wants to return to work after 30 weeks, her partner could look after the child for the remaining 7 weeks and still get paid.

How you divide your SPL is up to you – you can either take it off in one block or split this up into separate blocks and work for up to 30 days at a time. The parents don’t necessarily have to be off separately either, but what they’re entitled to will change if they’re both off at the same time.

Self-employed parents won’t be able to take SPL but their partners might be able to benefit from the leave. If you’ve recently started working for an employer, you will have to have worked there for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due to be eligible.

How much does it pay?

When you’re on SPL, you’ll get paid £139.58 a week or 90% your average weekly earnings. You’ll receive whichever amount is lower, although you could receive more depending on your employer.

This pay will be for 37 weeks, but if you take a further 13 weeks off then this will be unpaid. The amount you can get is similar to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) but with SMP you’ll receive 90% of whatever you earn for the first six weeks.

Apply for leave

You can check whether you’re eligible for SPL on the Government’s website. If you are, then as an employee you have a right to claim it. To start the process, fill in the appropriate form and begin to book your leave off in blocks.

Having a baby? Find out what benefits you could be entitled to while pregnant and after pregnancy in our blog series.

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