How SPL can be used to benefit Teachers

Many teachers that I have spoken to find it unfair that teachers do not benefit from accruing holiday in the same way that other professions do - most women on maternity leave will all accrue at least 5 weeks of paid holiday over the course of a year. Teachers also, in general, receive fairly minimal enhanced maternity pay in comparison to the private sector, but also professions like nursing and the police.  ​

SPL can be used by teachers, because of our unique holiday structure, to allow them to be paid for some of the school holidays that take place whilst they are on maternity leave. Maternity leave is one continuous period of leave, but Shared Parental Leave can be taken in up to three separate blocks [1], with breaks in between in which you return to work and are paid in full. The reason this works for teachers, is that if we return to work in the school holidays - we don't actually have to go to work, but will be paid in full (Your employer will not be able to ask you to go in and work unless all staff are asked to do likewise or this would be viewed as discrimination). 

SPL is taken by giving 8 weeks notice to your employer that you wish to curtail your maternity leave and that you wish to take SPL, which can be done at any point, even after your baby is born. Once you have curtailed your maternity leave you and your child's father can then split whatever is left of your 39 weeks statutory pay between you in any way you wish - the other parent can take no SPL, take time off with you, or take time off when you are back at work (as long as they qualify - see eligibility. Self employed fathers will usually qualify the mother to be able to take SPL, but not to take any themselves). When you return to work from SPL between blocks of leave your statutory pay pauses, and your entitlement resumes when you go back on leave. All leave must be taken by time your child turns one. 

Teachers need to be aware that SPL is paid at the statutory rate of £148.68  [2] or 90% of your earnings if this is lower, it is paid at this rate throughout, there is no initial 6 weeks at 90%. This is the basic entitlement and will be what you receive if your school or MAT don’t offer enhanced Shared Parental Pay (SPP). Some schools do offer SPP at the same rate as maternity leave (e.g. 6 weeks at 90% and an additional 12 weeks at 50% plus maternity), I strongly advise getting hold of your schools SPL policy and reading it thoroughly. If they don’t have one currently then it is safest to assume they will adopt the minimum – statutory payments. SPL can be started at any point during your leave as long as 8 weeks notice is given that you are planning to curtail your maternity leave, so if you have already had your baby it is not too late! As SPL can be started at any point, if your school do not offer enhanced SPP you can choose to start SPL after you have made the most of any additional maternity pay (e.g. the initial 6 weeks at 90% and any weeks at 50%).

To help clarify how SPL can be used in blocks please see the examples below:

Example 1

 

Teacher A works for a school that offers maternity pay of 6 weeks at 90% and 12 weeks at 50% plus statutory maternity pay, but only offers the basic SPP.  Teacher A is due on 1st December and works until 2 weeks before her due date, she wants to take a full years leave, her husband is eligible for SPL but does not intend to actually take leave beyond his 2 weeks of paternity leave.

 

Teacher A will make the most of SPP by doing the following:

  • Taking maternity leave from her chosen date until the end of the Spring term.

  • Giving notice at least 8 weeks before the end of the spring term that she intends to curtail her maternity leave on the last day of the Spring term. Teacher A will be paid in full for the 2 week Easter holiday.

  • Applying for her first block of SPL from the 1st day of the summer term to the last day of term 5. Teacher A will be paid statutory SPP for the time that she is on leave and will be paid in full for the summer half term holiday.  

  • Applying for her second block of SPL from the 1st day of half term 6 until the last day of half term 6. Teacher A will be paid statutory SPP for the time that she is on leave and will be paid in full for the 6 week summer holiday.

  • Applying for her third block of SPL from the 1st day of the Autumn term, until she wishes to return to work and finish her leave. SPP will be paid at statutory rate until she has been paid statutory pay for a total of 39 weeks (either under maternity of shared parental leave).

 

Teacher A will receive exactly the same amount of statutory pay, but in addition to that will be paid for 9 additional weeks at full pay. She will not be required to go into work at any point (to ask you to come in for the holiday would be discriminatory unless all other staff at your level are required to be in). Teacher A can take KIT days (except they are called SPLIT days and she is now entitled to 20 instead of just 10) in exactly the same way she would if she was taking regular maternity leave. Her application, as it is taken in three blocks of leave, cannot be refused and must be granted by the school.

 

Assuming Teacher A takes 52 weeks leave she will receive statutory rate for 39 weeks (including the first 6 at the higher 90% rate, and the following 12 with the extra 50% ), plus an additional 9 weeks full pay. She will only be on unpaid leave for 4 weeks.

 

Example 2

Teacher B works for a MAT who offer SPP at the same rate that they offer Maternity pay (6 weeks at 90%, 12 weeks at 50% plus statutory pay, the remaining 21 weeks at statutory rate). Teacher B is due in June and is commencing her leave on 1st June. As per Teacher A her husband is eligible but won’t take any leave himself. She also intends to take a year.

Teacher B will make the most of SPL by doing the following:

 

  • Commencing maternity leave at her chosen date in June.

  • Giving a minimum of 8 weeks notice that she intends to curtail her maternity leave on the last day of the summer term and commence block one of SPL on the 1st day of the Autumn term. She will be paid in full for the 6 week summer holiday. When her SPL starts in September her enhanced maternity pay will pick up where it left off, so she will paid whatever is remaining of her 12 weeks at 50% plus statutory. When this runs out she will drop down on to statutory pay.

  • Ending block one on the last day of the Autumn term. Teacher B will be paid in full for the 2 week Christmas holiday.

  • Commencing block 2 of leave on the 1st day of the Spring term and ending it on the last day of the Spring term. Teacher B will be paid in full for the 2 week Easter holiday.

  • Commencing block 3 of leave on the 1st day of the summer term and ending it whenever she has chosen to return to work.

 

Teacher B will receive everything she would have received on ordinary maternity leave, plus an additional 10 weeks of fully paid leave! Teacher B can take a full year off work and only 3 of those weeks will be unpaid.

In addition to this, as SPL entitles parents to 52 weeks off (and your ‘return to work’ will mean you haven’t actually taken that by the end of one year from your maternity leave start date), if you started maternity leave before your due date, you can stay off for longer than one year to make full use of your 52 weeks leave – as long as you return to work by your child’s first birthday.

 

How to make it work best for you will depend on when your baby is due. If like teacher A your school only offer statutory SPP make sure you have used up any enhanced maternity pay first (unless it falls that it ends in/ around the summer holidays – 6 weeks full pay is definitely better than finishing your 6 weeks of 50% plus statutory!), if you are lucky enough to have a school that offers SPP like Teacher B you have more flexibility.

 

If your husband/ partner actually wants to take SPL, and is eligible to take leave themselves, they can take leave at any point during the year – at the same time as you, when you are ‘returned to work’ or when you have genuinely returned to work. If they don’t take SPL their pay will not be affected at all by your leave/ return to work. If they do take leave the entitlement to 39 weeks statutory pay will be shared between you. Have a look at the Case Study page for examples of this!

 

[1] https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay/booking-blocks-of-leave

[2][2] Accurate as of July 2019