Not surprisingly given its name, most descriptions of the new shared parental leave arrangements describe it as leave that can be shared between the parents.
In fact this isn’t quite right.
Take the case of a couple where you employ one and their partner is self-employed. The self-employed parent isn’t eligible for shared parental leave or pay. But, if both satisfy certain conditions about work and earnings in the 66 weeks before the baby is due, your employee can have the full 37 weeks of shared parental leave and pay for himself/herself without sharing anything.
(With one more condition, your employee must have at least 26 weeks of service with the same employer by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due.)
Why would anyone want to take shared parental leave even though their partner can’t share it?
If the partner you employ is the man, it will give him much more paid-ish leave than paternity leave, which is currently just 2 weeks at the statutory rate of £139.58 a week. If he takes shared parental leave, he can take 37 weeks of leave paid at the statutory rate of £138.18 a week.
On the other hand if the partner you employ is the woman, the greater flexibility of shared parental leave will enable her to take leave in blocks of time and return to work in between, instead of having to take it in one continuous period as required under maternity leave.
Even if both parents are eligible for shared parental leave, but one takes none of it, the other parent can take the full amount. Think of it simply as a block of time, 50 weeks, that either parent can take off work up to their child’s first birthday with 37 weeks of it paid at a set rate.
As the employer you aren’t required to check anything about the partner you don’t employ. Leave it to your employees to work out their eligibility and options using the self-service function on the government’s website https://www.gov.uk/pay-leave-for-parents and come to you with solutions that will work for them as new parents and for your business.