UK Civil Service


What contractual pay is offered to mothers* on maternity leave? At least 26 weeks at full pay, with some departments offering more.
What contractual pay and leave is being offered to fathers/other parent who opt to take SPL? All eligible Civil Service employees can take up to 26 weeks SPL at full pay, to mirror what is offered for maternity/adoption leave.
Does contractual pay have to be repaid if the employees does not to return? Yes – but only if the employee leaves the Civil Service altogether. If they move to another job or department, they don’t have to repay.
Will entitlement to SPL be reduced according to SML already taken?  Yes
Is your contractual Shared Parental Pay reduced by the number of weeks of SMP received by the mother?  Yes
Can SPL be taken from day one of employment? No, in accordance with statutory requirements the employee must have at least 26 weeks continuous employment by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth or adoption matching date. However, in the Civil Service this period of continuous employment can be with any department, so employees will remain eligible even if they move between departments.
Is it tied to the date of the child’s birth? Yes, the mother/primary adopter must take a minimum of two weeks’ maternity/adoption leave before they can end their leave to take SPL.
Are there any limitations on how SPL can be taken ie minimum continuous block? SPL must be taken in blocks of at least one week – these don’t have to be continuous. Patterns of leave are agreed between the employee and their manager.
Do you incentivise certain patterns of leave?  No
Do you offer a bonus on return from SPL if minimum period it taken? No. The Civil Service aims to be an exemplar to other employers and is actively encouraging employees to take up their entitlement to SPL. By levelling the playing field in our pay approach we have championed the introduction of SPL and demonstrated our commitment to enabling parents to share the care of their children equally.

*or primary adopter

How are you communicating and encouraging people to take SPL?

A communications strategy has been deployed across the Civil Service to ensure that all employees – over 400,000 – are aware of the new entitlement to SPL. This has included:

  • the development and launch of a full suite of policy and guidance products for employees and managers to guide them through the process of calculating entitlement and applying for SPL
  • guidance and workshops for our HR Business Partners and other stakeholders to support engagement with employees and managers in their department to publicise the benefits and availability of SPL
  • a presentation to the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance to raise awareness of SPL and its availability to same-sex parents
  • publicity material such as Intranet news articles and a clear and simple employee guide
  • a blog by Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet Secretary, to draw attention to SPL and how it supports the culture we want to encourage for working parents in the Civil Service – that childcare is a choice for both parents and not just for women.

The rules on SPL can be difficult to understand, especially the overlap between statutory and contractual pay entitlements, so we have also developed some alternative communications methods to explain how SPL works in simple, creative and visually appealing ways. Our guidance products for managers and employees include a number of different pay scenarios which map out visually how parents can take their leave in different ways. We have also developed a ready reckoner – an interactive tool to help employees plan how to take SPL by working out their indicative statutory and contractual pay entitlement. We created a card game for the HR community to play which randomises different pairings of employees and non-employees and gives practical experience of applying the procedures to test their understanding of the rules. We have also created a cartoon strip which depicts the journey taken by an expectant couple and the choices available to them about the care of their child, which will be displayed as a poster in offices.

Can you describe what wider cultural changes needed to support SPL are being implemented?

The Civil Service has a long history of enabling employees to work flexibly in order to achieve a positive work-life balance and help attract and retain staff, especially those with caring responsibilities. The diversity of our business means that many employees are able to work flexibly – either by adapting the hours they work or where they work. So there is already a culture of enabling employees to balance their home and work lives. The programme of reform in the Civil Service aspires to continue on this path, which will challenge the culture of traditional ways of working throughout the organisation.

The overall aim of shared parental leave is to make childcare a parental issue and not just one for women. Our decision to offer the same level of enhanced pay to parents taking SPL as we do to mothers/adopters is a big step forward in making shared childcare a real choice for parents and towards gender equality. It sets us apart from most other employers who only offer statutory pay and, as part of our overall employee offer, will help the Civil Service retain qualified and talented employees. It also supports the aim of encouraging fathers to be more involved in the early stages of a child’s life, which has been shown to have a beneficial impact.

SPL is one strand of the wider cultural change taking place in the Civil Service. The policy is a cornerstone of the Civil Service Talent Action Plan (TAP) which aims to remove barriers to career progression for certain groups, including women. One of the aims of the TAP is to ensure that women get the appropriate support before, during and after their maternity/adoption leave and this includes encouraging them to use the range of options available to them to enable them to continue with their career should they wish to do so. SPL is an important part of this as it enables parents to make a choice about who cares for their child without gender bias.

Part of our communication strategy involves raising awareness amongst managers and staff about what this new entitlement means. Managers are used to fathers having limited time away from work following the birth/adoption, with mothers taking the bulk of the time off in a single block. Throughout our communications we have outlined the different ways that parents may choose to take their leave and encourage employees to have early conversations with their manager about their intentions so that both parties can plan ahead. As SPL embeds we will continue to drive the message that enabling parents to share their leave can have positive impacts for the business in terms of engagement and retention, as well as enabling parents to balance their development and career progression with their commitments at home.

What do you expect take up of SPL amongst fathers to be? Have you surveyed your employees about SPL and uptake?  Other surveys have shown that mothers may be unwilling to relinquish maternity leave: have you detected similar?

It is difficult to predict take up of SPL, but we are committed to encouraging all eligible parents to use their entitlement. Since the introduction of SPL in April 2015 we have had a steady level of interest which suggests that parents are aware of their entitlement and are seriously considering whether and how to use it depending on their family circumstances. Going forward we will share real success stories to illustrate how parents have used their entitlement and how it has benefited them, in order to encourage others. We aim to monitor uptake across the Civil Service. We have no evidence to suggest that mothers may be unwilling to relinquish their maternity leave. Our decision to offer the same enhanced pay as we do for maternity/adoption leave is intended to encourage take up by fathers/partners and we will monitor the impact of this.

Do you have any insight into how parents might like to take SPL? Which is best for your business in terms of planning?

We don’t have any data on this yet. Employees can apply for any pattern or combination that suits them as long as it is in blocks of at least one week. We encourage employees to discuss their intentions with their manager as early as possible so that agreement can be reached with meets both personal and business needs and enables everyone to plan ahead. Because the Civil Service is so diverse, we do not have a preference for how employees take their leave – we can accommodate most patterns and employees will agree these with their manager. This is a major advantage for employees because they will be able to make arrangements that suit their family circumstances.