SPL was introduced in 2015 by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government. The policy aims to support parents in sharing their caring responsibilities within the first year of birth or adoption, and was seen by the government as a key lever for achieving gender equality in the workplace (Department of Business Innovation and Skills, 2013). Such policies are also important in encouraging men to take on more domestic responsibilities in the home which include childcare.
Key features of the statutory shared parental leave policy
The SPL policy applies to all eligible parents in the UK who have given birth or adopted a child since April 2015. It allows a parent (or primary adopter) to cut their maternity leave or maternity allowance short (after the mandatory two-week period) and share the remainder (a maximum of 50 weeks) with the other parent who would be eligible for paternity leave. Those parents using maternity are also able to use SPL but it is important to emphasise that maternity leave would need to end, and enhancement attached to maternity leave, in order to use SPL.
During this time, the other parent may be entitled to Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). ShPP can be received for up to 37 of these 50 weeks, and is currently £148.68 per week (accurate as of 2019/ 2020 financial year) or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. One crucial aspect of SPL is that it offers parents considerable flexibility, unlike other parenting policies, so that both parents can take leave at the same or different times, or a parent can take SPL, go back to work and then go back on SPL. What this means is that the leave can also be taken in one go, or in up to three separate periods of leave consisting of at least one week.