8 tips on making Shared Parental Leave work
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8 tips on making Shared Parental Leave work

Family enjoying Shared Parental Leave

Photo by StockSnap on Pixabay

As you probably know, dads don’t get much time off when it comes to paternity leave (sad face). But if you’ve read our post on paternity leave, you’ll know how beneficial it can be. And that’s just two weeks – what if Dad/partner could take more time off? Well… they can! 

That’s right – you can actually share your leave. So, instead of Mum taking her full maternity leave of 52 weeks (37 paid), she can take less and Dad can take more. And this can be taken at the same time or at different times. This is also very similar for adoptions – awesome, right? Sharing responsibility of your little one isn’t only great for learning and bonding – it has a load of health benefits for the whole family. So SPL is something we should all be shouting about!

This hasn’t been an option for very long. It was only introduced in the UK in April 2015 and hardly anyone is actually taking it up (only around 1% of parents who qualify!). It’s thought this is because of finances – people simply can’t live on the current SPL payment. The TUC is calling for an overhaul of SPL to get better rights and better paid leave. Hopefully this is something we will see in the future but, until then, you can try to make current SPL work for you.

  1. Know your rights

Unfortunately, not everybody will meet the requirements for SPL (e.g. self-employed dads or those on zero hour contracts), but a lot of the people that do meet them don’t even know it! We won’t lie, there are a few hoops you’ll need to jump through, but if it’s something that you think will be beneficial to your family, you should know exactly what you’re entitled to.

Firstly, you could download this parents’ guide, this eligibility checklist, make yourself a nice cuppa and have a proper read through them. It works by Mum taking her normal maternity leave/pay or maternity allowance, and then ending them early and turning the rest of their leave into SPL to be shared with her partner. Basically, in a (rather large) nutshell:

Mum 

  • Must be an employee and entitled to maternity or leave/pay, or maternity allowance.
  • Must have, in the 66 weeks leading up to baby’s due date, worked for at least 26 weeks for the same employer and earned, on average, at least £30 a week in any 13 weeks.
  • Must still be employed the week before SPL starts.

Mum and her baby

Photo by Ana Tablas on Unsplash

Partner

  • Must also be an employee, and have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of their notification week (which is 15 weeks before baby’s due date).
  • Must still be employed the week before SPL starts.
  • Must pass the ’continuity of employment’ test.

If one of you isn’t entitled to SPL (e.g. on a zero-hour contract) but the other one is, you may still be able to get it. E.g. If mum qualifies for maternity allowance but not SPL, she can shorten her maternity allowance, giving her partner access to SPL (as long as he qualifies for it).

What you’ll get

  • Dad still gets his two weeks paternity leave – woo! Just make sure you take it before your SPL starts otherwise you lose it.
  • Mum still, legally, has to take the first two weeks off.
  • Then, the last 50 weeks of leave can be split between you.
  • Your employer still has to stay in contact with you while you’re off and let you know about any redundancy situations, job changes or new jobs available.
  • You can also get 20 SPLIT days to keep in touch (see tip number six).
  • Mum can get maternity pay for the first six weeks (90% of her average weekly earnings) and then whichever one of you is on leave, you’ll get £148.68 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

Dad and his baby

Photo by Mikael Stenberg on Unsplash

  1. Plan way ahead

Of course, not everyone knows when they might be blessed by a little one, but many have it firmly locked into their 10 year plan. If you know you’re going to be trying for a baby, it helps to start putting a bit of money aside as early as possible. 1/4 of new parents get into debt while on leave, so if you can start saving early, you may be able to avoid this! A joint savings account that takes a little bit of each of your wages each month can be perfect. 

  1. Take it in shifts

If it’s possible, both parents taking SPL at the same time can be lovely. There will be so much family bonding, learning together, and a whole lotta love.

But this can really take its toll on finances if neither parent is earning a full wage during that time. This is why many opt to take their leave at different times. This means that both parents still get a chance to be involved with baby, plus you can hold off on childcare costs for the first year!

Mum (legally) has to take the first two weeks off after the birth, and Dad needs to take his normal two weeks of paternity leave before he starts his SPL, so those two weeks could be taken off together. (Or Dad can take them later tagged onto the front of his SPL). As long as your employer agrees, you can then split the remaining 50 weeks in as many as three blocks each. E.g. instead of:

Shared parental leave graph - leave taken at the same time

you could try one of these example splits:

A few examples of how to split Shared Parental Leave

It all depends on your work life, home life and what you think is best for you and your little munchkin!

  1. Or mix it up

Of course, you can stagger and layer your leave. You could share some parts of your SPL and then one of you work for other parts. This might take a bit of extra planning but could be super beneficial for your family. E.g.

Shared Parental Leave example split - sharing some and alternating some

The more blocks you take, the trickier it may be at work as you’ll be stopping and starting again, but it doesn’t hurt to discuss it with your boss!

  1. Stay organised with a smart baby monitor

Both parents getting the pleasure of raising their little one brings so much goodness with it, and it means that baby gets to experience the care of both of you. It also means that things may differ from parent to parent, and moving between the two can disrupt baby’s routine.

Say Mum was used to baby having three naps a day and then she goes back to work for a few months. When she starts her next block of SPL, baby’s only having one nap a day, and is also weaning. Even if mum’s used to helping out with baby in the evenings, this can take some getting used to each time one of you goes back to full time SPL.

A consistent routine is super important for babies, especially when it comes to helping them sleep. Your Bluebell Smart monitoring system allows you to plan your baby’s day, and get reminders on their routine (feeds, naps, baths, medication, etc.). Both parents can download the app meaning you can both see how baby’s doing, even if you’re at work. This can totally reduce anxieties and keep baby on track whenever you change over.

Plus, once you’re both back at work, whoever looks after them can download the app and follow their routine too! This is just one of the many cool features of our smart baby monitor. Go check it out!

A baby monitor from Bluebell can keep you on track during leave and beyond

  1. Use your SPLIT days

Each of you can have 20 shared-parental-leave-in-touch days, where you can go in and do some work without your leave coming to an end. This can be really useful to help you keep up with what’s going on while you’re away.

  • These can all be worked at the same time, or dotted about while you’re on leave.
  • You’re not legally entitled to these, and your employer can’t force you to do them. It’s just something you’ll need to work out between you that may help you and them out. Scratch each other’s backs.
  • If you and your boss agree, you can use your SPLIT days to work part time for a while. This can help ease you back into work. 
  • Your employer needs to decide, and you need to agree in advance whether you’ll be paid on top of your ShPP or if your ShPP will be offset against your pay (hopefully it will be on top).
  1. Don’t set your expectations too high

SPL has only been around for a few years, so is probably new to you, especially if this is your first child. You may have visions of breakfast in bed, walking hand in hand in the park as you push baby in their pram to meet up with your new-parent friends, and cozy romantic evenings once baby’s settled down to sleep – and it might be just like that!

But this time in your life can be unpredictable. Life with a newborn can be hectic. So just take a breather and try to enjoy the time you have (even if it does involve many sleepless nights and lots and lots of puke). And spare time will probably be spent cleaning or napping – and that’s totally normal!

Messy table with teddy bear, oranges, etc.

Photo by Congerdesign on Pixabay

  1. Remember the benefits

If you’re getting tired of filling out forms, slogging over your planner all while trying to scrimp and save, it’s important to keep in mind just why you’re doing this. Taking Shared Parental Leave means that:

  • It’s a step in the right direction for gender equality! It helps to break down social stereotypes that a woman’s place is ‘in the home’ and men should be ‘bringing home the bacon’. It’s 2019! Definitely a time to move forward.
  • Both parents get a chance to care for baby in their first year which is, undoubtedly, one of the most wonderful things you may ever experience!
  • Taking leave at this time can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety (experienced by 1/5 of new mums and 1/10 of new dads).
  • It gives Mum the option to return to work earlier. This can give them more confidence and make things less stressful when returning to work.
  • It’s been found to make dads more involved in caring for kids as they grow, it can have a positive impact on your little one’s development and can be great for your relationship too!

Who doesn’t want those things? You can read more about the benefits in our maternity leave and paternity leave posts.

Mum, dad and baby walking in the park

Photo by MabelAmber on Pixabay

Now, we know that’s a lot to take in, and we haven’t even covered everything. SPL can be complicated, but many families do work it out and reap the benefits! Let us know if you’ve got any questions about this that we can help you with!