Workplace Report (May 2016)


New mums and dads get better deal if they are in union

Shared Parental Leave celebrated its first anniversary in April, but fathers may have been deterred in embracing it, with the loss of pay involved. However, unions have successfully negotiated better deals than the statutory entitlement. And it’s the same success story on other parental leave. 

In April 2015, the right to Shared Parental Leave replaced Additional Parental Leave, giving parents more flexibility on how to share leave. 

Shared Parental Leave is available to adopting parents, including surrogate parents who have applied for or will apply for a parental order.

Under the Shared Parental Leave rules, the mother must still take two compulsory weeks’ leave after birth (four weeks for factory workers). She can then decide to share up to 50 weeks of leave.

Shared Parental Leave is only available if the mother/adopter decides to cut short her maternity/adoption leave and pay and share the balance with her partner, who must be the child’s father, or the mother’s husband, civil or other partner.

Both parents can decide to take leave at the same time.

The person who takes Shared Parental Leave must:

• be an employee;

• share parental responsibility for the child with the other parent; and

• have been continuously employed for 26 weeks.

In addition, the other parent/adopted must satisfy an “employment and earnings” test, by:

• working as an employee or being self-employed in Great Britain for at least 26 of the 66 weeks up to the due date of birth or placement; and

• earning not less than £30 a week on average in 13 of the 66 weeks.

Last year, the TUC estimated that two in five fathers would be ineligible for Shared Parental Leave due to the mother not being in paid work or the father lacking the necessary length of service or employment status to qualify.

Strict notification rules must be followed to take Shared Parental Leave, which must be taken in complete weeks. 

However, Shared Parental Leave can be “continuous”, or “discontinuous”, that is, it can be split into a maximum of three separate chunks of time. 

As long as a qualifying employee gives the right notice, the employer cannot refuse a request to take any period of continuous leave. However, the employer is entitled to refuse a request for discontinuous leave.

Parents taking Shared Parental Leave may be entitled to statutory Shared Parental Pay. This is paid at the same low rate as Statutory Paternity Pay — currently £139.58 a week — which is about a fifth of male average weekly earnings (£668.80). 

The mother must curtail her right to Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance to trigger a right to Shared Parental Pay.

Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for up to 39 weeks at 90% of earnings for the first six weeks and is then at £139.58 a week for 33 weeks, so if the employer does not enhance the statutory rate of occupational shared parental pay it would be inadvisable to transfer to Shared Parental Leave in the first six weeks.

Shared parental pay is capped at 39 weeks, less the amount of Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance that has already been paid to the mother (including the two weeks of compulsory maternity leave).

Take up of Shared Parental Leave

These low statutory rates make it difficult for parents to take up their full entitlement of paid paternity and maternity leave. A 2014 survey of one thousand mothers by USwitch found that half couldn’t afford to stay at home so had gone back to work or started work. 

Surveys of parents unsurprisingly find that the most frequently cited obstacle to men taking Shared Parental Leave is affordability, for example in a recent survey of 1,000 employees by MyFamilyCare, over 80% of both men and women agreed that a decision to take Shared Parental Leave would be dependent on their finances and employer enhancement of pay during Shared Parental Leave. 

It is difficult to know what proportion of eligible fathers have taken Share Parental Leave to date – employers usually would not know whether an employee is eligible since that depends on both parents’ employment status/recent earnings. 

The recent widely reported 1% take-up of Shared Parental Leave based on survey research by MyFamilyCare is misleading as it was 1% of all men employed by the companies surveyed, not 1% of the employees who had become fathers since the introduction of Shared Parental Leave and certainly not 1% of those eligible to take Shared Parental Leave. Only 10% of the 1,000 employees in the MyFamilyCare survey had had a baby or adopted a child in the past 12 months, but a quarter (24%) of those women and just under a third (30%) of those men said they had taken Shared Parental Leave. 

A recent survey by Totaljobs found that just under a third (31%) of respondents who had had a baby in the last year had taken Shared Parental Leave. 

While these surveys may be unrepresentative, the take-up of Shared Parental Leave may be higher than generally thought. 

However, survey evidence also suggests that men are deterred from requesting Shared Parental Leave as fear it would adversely affect their career prospects so issues of organisational culture/behaviour and management training are also important. 

Payline Shared Parental Leave agreements

Data for this article are based on agreements on Labour Research Department’s Payline database where the information has been confirmed as correct within the last two years.

Payline has information on 117 Shared Parental Leave agreements. Over a third (38%) offered pay and leave that were better than the statutory entitlement. These agreements are predominantly in public sector or in finance. 

While the Payline information is based on far fewer agreements than that for paternity, maternity and adoption, unions have had more success in negotiating for enhanced Shared Parental Pay than was the case for Additional Parental Leave. 

Of those agreements that were better than statutory, four-fifths (82%) paid occupational shared parental pay at a rate matching the occupational maternity pay that a mother would receive for the same period (minus any maternity pay already taken).

For example, if occupational maternity policy is 18 weeks’ full pay, an occupational shared parental policy that matches would offer a parent taking shared parental leave 12 weeks at full pay after the mother had taken six weeks of maternity leave (18 weeks’ occupational shared parental pay total minus six weeks’ maternity = 12 weeks available occupational shared parental pay).

In finance, the following agreements occupational shared parental pay matches maternity: Aviva, Lloyds Banking Group,Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, TSB and Virgin Money. 

Other private sector agreements with matching entitlements are Accenture Business Support Services, Scottish Power Energy Network and Unilever. telecoms group BT only enhances occupational shared parental pay if both parents work for the company. 

Charity The National Trust is a very large voluntary sector employer with a matching entitlement.

The Civil Service gives Shared Parental Leave that matches maternity. Other public sector agreements doing so include: Bank of England, Medical Research Council,National Assembly of Wales, Registers of Scotland, Scottish NHS, Scottish Parliament and the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service. 

Universities where shared parental entitlements match maternity include: University of Aberdeen, Aston University, Bristol University, Brunel University, Durham University, University of Exeter, University of Greenwich, University of Leicester, University of Liverpool, LSE, University of Manchester, University of Reading, University of Strathclyde, University of Sunderland, University of the West of England and York St John University.

Enhancing the level of occupational shared parental pay will be the most important factor, but reps will also want to ensure that staff are aware of their right to take Shared Parental Leave and Pay, the eligibility requirements and the complex rules on notifications. There is useful guidance on the GOV.UK and Acas websites.

Shared Parental Leave for grandparents

The government has announced that statutory Shared Parental Leave and Pay will be extended to grandparents and aims to implement this by 2018. Their evidence suggests that nearly two million grandparents have given up work, reduced their hours or have taken time off work to help families who cannot afford childcare costs. Santander is ahead of the game and already makes Shared Parental Leave and Pay available for grandparents, providing that both the grandparent and parent are employed by the company.


Payline has 268 current maternity agreements, the vast majority of which (86%) are better than statutory entitlement. 

Statutory Maternity Leave is for one year, but a few Payline agreements offer a longer period. Edinburgh City Council and Westminster Council both offer up to 63 weeks maternity leave. Police officers get up to 15 months’ maternity leave.

Women must have at least 26 weeks’ service by the 15th week before the baby is due to be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay.

More detail on Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay and other statutory rights and payments for parents are in Labour Research Department’s booklets State benefits and tax credits 2016 and Leave and pay for working parents.

Very few agreements offer occupational maternity pay to those with less than 26 weeks’ service. 

The following agreements give the same entitlement to enhanced maternity pay from day one: London Fire and Rescue Service (15 weeks’ full pay and 14 weeks’ half pay), Medical Research Council (26 weeks’ full pay), University of Liverpool (eight weeks’ full pay and 16 weeks’ half pay) and Queen’s University Belfast (18 weeks’ full pay). Barclays Bank gives six weeks at full pay to staff from day one (staff with 26 weeks’ service get 26 weeks’ full pay).

Four out of five agreements (83%) extended the period of enhanced maternity pay beyond the statutory six-week period. 

Two-thirds of agreements (67%) offered a period on full pay - for half the agreements (51%) the period on full pay was greater than six weeks.

Several higher education agreements offer choices between having a shorter period of enhanced pay at a higher rate or a longer period at a lower rate, for example at the University of Aberdeen, there is a choice between 18 weeks at full pay or nine weeks at full pay, followed by 18 weeks at half-pay. 

For Statutory Maternity Pay, the first six weeks are paid at 90% of average weekly earnings during a qualifying period (usually the eight weeks immediately prior to the end of the 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth) and then £139.58 a week for 33 weeks.

Where earnings vary, it may be advantageous to negotiate that occupational maternity can be calculated on a different basis, for example Tesco staff with two years’ service are paid the first six weeks of maternity leave at the higher of normal contractual pay or average weekly earnings during the qualifying period. 

Some significant improvements to maternity entitlements have been made in the last two years. Barclays Bank increased maternity leave to 26 weeks at full pay for staff with 26 weeks’ service. Santander will increase maternity pay to 16 weeks at full pay for those with an expected date of childbirth on or after 26 June 2016. And Tesco now gives 14 weeks at full pay to staff with two years’ service. 

Scottish Police Officers with 63 weeks’ service now get 18 weeks at full pay – the Winsor review had increased maternity leave for officers in the rest of the UK but was not implemented in Scotland.

The table 1 lists agreements with more than 10 weeks’ leave at full pay in the private and voluntary sectors. Ford Motors has the best entitlement (52 weeks at full pay for staff with 26 weeks’ service), while rail agreements are among some of the best. 

Table 1: Private/voluntary sector with more than 10 weeks maternity leave at full pay

Agreement Weeks at
 full pay Service 
Ford Motors 52 26 weeks
Unilever 39 3 years
Babcock Intl Marine & Tech Div 26 26 weeks
Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems 20 26 weeks
BASF (Bradford) 18 1 year
International Paint 18 1 year
Invista Textiles (UK) 18 26 weeks
Spirit Aerosystems (Europe) 18 26 weeks
Toyota 18 1 year
Cereal Partners UK (Bromborough) 16 2 years
Tesco 14 2 years
Serco (JD Williams Customer Service 13 n/k
Morrisons 12 n/k
Cross Country (Drivers) 39 n/k
First Transpennine Express 39 26 weeks
Northern Rail (Drivers) 39 n/k
Virgin West Coast Trains (Drivers) 39 n/k
Freightliner (drivers) 24 n/k
Southern (Drivers) 18 n/k
Scotrail 13 n/k
Abellio Greater Anglia Drivers 12 n/k
Chiltern Railways (drivers) 12 n/k
First Great Western 12 n/k
London Overground (Drivers) 12 n/k
Virgin Trains East Coast 12 n/k
Royal Mail 26 1 year
BT 18 26 weeks
Barclays Bank 26 26 weeks
AXA UK 24 26 weeks
HSBC (Clerical staff) 19 26 weeks
Aviva 18 1 year
Santander UK 16 n/k
Assoc of Chartered Certified Accountants 14 26 weeks
Allianz 13 n/k
Virgin Money 13 26 weeks
Co-operative Banking Group 12 26 weeks
Royal Bank of Scotland 12 n/k
Other private sector
Accenture Business Support Services 32 26 weeks
National Grid 26 26 weeks
Guardian News and Media 18 1 year
EMAP Public Sector 16 1 year
Voluntary sector
Amnesty International UK 26 26 weeks
Fairtrade Foundation 26 1 year
United Reformed Church 26 None
London Zoo 26 n/k
National Trust (England/Wales/NI) 13 1 yeart
Oxfam 12 1 year

n/k — not known

In the public sector, the NHS Agenda for Change occupational maternity entitlement for staff with one year’s service is eight weeks at full pay followed by 18 weeks at half pay. 

The Local Government Green Book occupational maternity entitlement is six weeks at 90%, followed by 12 weeks at 50%, for staff with one year’s service. Burnley Borough Council pays six weeks at 90%, followed by 24 weeks at 50%. Glasgow City Council pays six weeks at 90%, followed by 33 weeks at 50%.

Fire Service (Grey Book) entitlement is the same as the Local Government Green Book. Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service pays 26 weeks at full pay followed by six weeks at half pay to staff with one year’s service. London Fire and Rescue Service pays 15 weeks at full pay, followed by 24 weeks at half pay, with no service requirement. South Wales Fire and Rescue Service pays 18 weeks at full pay to staff with 26 weeks’ service. Meanwhile, both Humberside Fire and Rescue Service and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service pay six weeks at 90% followed by 33 weeks at 50%.

School teachers with one year’s service, are entitled to four weeks at 100%, followed by two weeks at 90%, then 12 weeks at 50%.

Staff in the Civil Service generally receive 26 weeks at full pay if they have one year’s service. At the Disclosure and Barring Service staff receive 27 weeks at full pay. 

The most generous public sector maternity paid leave is at Registers of Scotland where staff with one year’s service get 52 weeks at full pay. The Bank of England gives 26 weeks at full pay to staff with 26 weeks’ service.

There is considerable variation in higher education. The most common entitlement on the Payline database is 12 weeks at full pay or six weeks at full pay followed by 12 weeks at half pay. The University of Manchester and Oxford University both give 26 weeks at full pay to staff with 26 weeks’ service. The University of Southampton also gives 26 weeks at full pay, but staff must have one year’s service.


In April 2015, under the Children and Families Act 2014, the statutory rights of adopting parents to leave and pay were bought in line with the rights of birth mothers to maternal leave and pay. 

Adopters are now entitled to similar rights to birth parents:

• adoption leave is now a “day 1 right” (that is, employees will not need to have a qualifying period of service); and

• statutory adoption pay is paid at the earnings-related level in the first six weeks — mirroring the arrangements for statutory maternity pay.

Parents involved in a surrogacy arrangement who intend to apply for a “parental order” and those parents who wish to “foster to adopt” qualify for adoption leave and pay. 

Adopting parents also have the right to have paid time off during working hours to attend up to five adoption appointments — in the case of a joint adoption, only one of the couple is entitled to paid time off for adoption appointments. 

Partners/secondary adopters have the right to unpaid time off to attend two adoption appointments. The right to time off and statutory adoption pay also applies to agency workers.

Four-fifths (83%) of the 206 current adoption agreements on Payline are better than statutory in some way. 

The trend in the Payline agreements has been that increasingly the leave and pay offered to the primary adopter has matched that offered to mothers with the same service requirements, and are the same regardless of the age of the child. 

In almost nine out of 10 (86%) of those Payline adoption agreements where entitlements are better than statutory, the adoption leave, pay and service requirements are now the same as for maternity and apply to parents of children of any age.

As the statutory entitlement to leave and pay for mothers and primary adopters is now essentially the same, reps in those workplaces where this is not the case may be able to make a stronger moral argument that occupational adoption entitlements should be bought in line. 

In a few cases the policies that we were sent did not reflect the legal changes brought in by the Children and Families Act 2014 and reps will want to ensure that policies are updated and workers are aware of their improved statutory rights.


The statutory entitlement is two weeks paid at £139.58 a week or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for staff with 26 weeks’ service. 

Payline has 250 agreements relating to paternity, of which four-fifths (82%) offered more than the statutory requirement. 

Three-quarters (74%) of agreements offered at least five days’ paternity leave at full pay. Almost half (44%) of agreements offered 10 or more days of paternity leave at full pay. 

In 2015, the Co-operative Bank increased paid paternity leave up to a maximum of four weeks at full pay. 

Royal Mail generally gives two weeks at full pay, but in HR Services staff get three weeks and Customer Service & Sales CMA grades get four weeks. 

In the public sector, Registers of Scotland offers maximum of four weeks’ paternity leave at full pay. The Welsh government and the Welsh National Assembly both offer three weeks’ paternity leave at full pay, as does the Disclosure and Barring Service.

There is no service requirement for the 10 days’ paternity leave at full pay at: Aviva, Crown Paints, Department for Transport, Liverpool University, Liverpool Hope University, London Metropolitan University, the Medical Research Council, nor the University of Cambridge.

There is no service requirement for the five days’ paternity leave at full pay at: Cardiff University, Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, London Fire and Emergency Planning Service, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, the National Trust, the Police, University of Brighton, nor the University of Worcester.

Table 2: Private sector deals with 10 or more days paternity leave at full pay

Agreement Service qualification
Crown Paints None
Unilever n/k
Babcock Intl Marine & Technology Div 26 weeks
DHL Automotive (Jaguar Land Rover contract) 26 weeks
Eaton Electric n/k
GKN Aerospace (Kings Norton/B’ham) n/k
James Walker & Co n/k
Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems 26 weeks
Michelin 1 year
Morrisons 26 weeks
Sainsbury’s Retail 26 weeks
Scottish Midland Co-op Society 26 weeks
Tesco (retail) 26 weeks
XPO Logistics (Asda Contract) 26 weeks
Abellio Greater Anglia Drivers n/k
Colas Rail Infrastructure Monitoring n/k
DRS (Direct Rail Services Drivers) n/k
Eurostar International 26 weeks
Freightliner Heavy Haul n/k
London Overground (Drivers) n/k
Northern Rail n/k
Virgin Trains n/k
BT 26 weeks
Royal Mail 1 year
Telefonica — O2 Contract Tech Eng & Retail 26 weeks
Allianz n/k
Aviva None
AXA UK 26 weeks
Barclays Bank n/k
Co-operative Banking Group n/k
HSBC (Clerical staff) 2 years
Royal Bank of Scotland n/k
Virgin Money n/k
Other private sector
Assoc of Chartered Certified Accountants 26 weeks
Accenture Business Support Services 26 weeks
Fujitsu Services 26 weeks
National Grid 26 weeks
Usborne Publishing 26 weeks
Age UK n/k
Fairtrade Foundation 26 weeks
Glasgow Life 26 weeks
London Zoo n/k
Oxfam n/k
Scottish Federation of Housing Assocs 26 weeks
United Reformed Church n/k

n/k — not known

Table 3: Public sector deals with 10 or more days paternity leave at full pay

Agreement Service qualification
Higher education
Anglia Ruskin University 1 year
Birmingham University 26 weeks
Bradford University 26 weeks
Brighton University 26 weeks
Bristol University 26 weeks
Cambridge University None
Exeter University 26 weeks
Greenwich University 26 weeks
Leeds University 26 weeks
Liverpool Hope University None
Liverpool University None
London Metropolitan University None
LSE 26 weeks
Manchester Metropolitan University 26 weeks
Manchester University 26 weeks
Open University 1 year
Oxford University 26 weeks
Plymouth University n/k
Reading University 26 weeks
Southampton University 26 weeks
Stirling University 26 weeks
Swansea University 1 year
Teesside University 26 weeks
York St John University 26 weeks
Other education
City College Southampton 1 year
Teaching (Sixth Form Colleges) 1 year
NHS Agenda for Change 1 year
Local government
Kent County Council n/k
London Borough of Ealing 26 weeks
London Borough of Tower Hamlets n/k
Westminster City Council 26 weeks
Woking Borough Council 26 weeks
Fire services
London Fire & Emergency Planning Service 26 weeks
South Wales Fire & Rescue Service 26 weeks
Central government
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills n/k
Department for Transport None
Disclosure & Barring Service 1 year
Prison Service — NOMS 26 weeks
Bank of England 26 weeks
Big Lottery Fund 26 weeks
Medical Research Council None
National Theatre 1 year
National Assembly for Wales 1 year
Registers of Scotland 26 weeks
Scottish Parliament 26 weeks
Welsh Government 1 year

n/k — not known

Parental Leave

From April 2015, the right to take unpaid parental leave was extended to parents of children under the age of 18 — previously the age limit was five, unless the child was disabled. 

Parents can take a total of 18 weeks per child and can take up to four weeks in any one year, but must have one years’ service with the employer before taking parental leave. 

Parental Leave must be taken as whole weeks rather than single days, unless the child is disabled.

There are 188 current parental leave agreements on Payline — the great majority (85%) do not improve on the statutory entitlement.

Scottish NHS Agenda for Change staff are paid the first four weeks of parental leave at basic pay. The Homes and Communities Agency pays the first three weeks of parental leave at full pay. The Big Lottery Fund allows parents one week’s parental leave on full pay per year if they have a child under the age of 8. 

The Department for Transport allows parents of disabled children up to three weeks paid parental leave in any 12-month period up to a maximum entitlement of 26 weeks’ paid parental leave.

Some agreements allow for leave to be taken as single days. In the private and voluntary sector they include: Cereal Partners UK (Bromborough), Co-operative Banking Group, and the Institute for Employment Studies. 

Public sector agreements include: Aston University, Durham Police Staff, North Lanarkshire Council, Northern Ireland Civil Service and the University of Reading.

Dial Leeds and London Fire and Emergency Planning Service only require staff to have completed probation/initial training rather than having one year’s service.


Payline has current information on employer assistance with childcare/cost of childcare for 71 agreements. Nine out of 10 (91%) of agreements provided assistance in the form of salary-sacrifice childcare vouchers. For basic rate taxpayers the monthly exempt limit is £243 a month. 

Union reps should be aware that taking part in a salary sacrifice scheme will affect the “average salary” for Statutory Maternity Pay and will affect tax credit awards. The GOV.UK website has a calculator to help individuals work out whether accepting childcare vouchers would be financially advantageous.

The government has announced that it will introduce a new online voucher scheme from 2017, which will not depend on employers making it available to their staff. However, staff already in a scheme will be able to continue for as long as their employer provides the vouchers.

This information is copyright to the Labour Research Department (LRD) and may not be reproduced without the permission of the LRD.