Legislation overview

Shared parental leave (SPL) allows parents to share statutory leave and pay. The coalition Liberal Democrat-Conservative Government introduced SPL for parents of children due on or after 5 April 2015. It was brought into effect by various legislation (a list of which is given at the end of these Q&As). SPL is separate from the right to unpaid parental leave, and has not replaced the current maternity leave and pay regime.

What SPL did replace was the additional paternity leave regime, which enabled eligible employees to care for their child after the mother had returned to work for between two and 26 weeks, starting 20 weeks after the child’s birth.

Similar SPL rights apply to adoptions. The intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement are also entitled to take advantage of shared parental leave. These rights also apply to same-sex partnerships, so any references to ‘fathers’ should be taken as including women in same-sex partnerships..

Unpaid parental leave generally refers to the current right of up to 18 weeks’ (formerly 13 weeks) of extra unpaid leave, which is in addition to the primary paid leave available to parents.

For general information on shared parental leave and pay, see our Maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave and pay Q&As.

Q: Which employees qualify for unpaid parental leave?

Q: What must an employer offer by way of unpaid parental leave?

Q: Are there any exceptions to the unpaid parental leave provisions for parents with disabled children?

Q: Does an employee have the right to return to the same position following a period of unpaid parental leave?

Q: Can an employer postpone unpaid parental leave?

Q: If an employer refuses unpaid parental leave or time off for dependants, what claims may the employee make?

Q: What must an employer offer by way of time off for dependants, for example if a family member dies or is ill?

Q: Does the need for time off to care for a dependant have to be a sudden and unexpected emergency?

Q: Who is a 'dependant' for the purposes of the time off for dependants provisions?

Q: What information is an employer entitled to from an employee who needs to have time off work to care for a dependant?

Q: Are any future developments expected in the area of flexible working, parental rights and family-friendly provisions?

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