UCL Human Resources


UCL Parental Leave and Pay Policy

1. Purpose

1.1. This document sets out UCL's policy for entitlements to Maternity, Adoption, Shared Parental, Paternity/Partner's, Surrogacy, Fertility, Fostering and (Ordinary) Parental Leave and Pay.

2. Scope

2.1. This policy applies to all UCL employees regardless of length of service or funding source.

2.2. For more information about conducting risk assessments, see UCL Safety Services advice concerning New and Expectant Mothers.

2.3. Advice about maintaining a healthy and safe working environment is available from UCL Occupational Health. The website also includes information about fertility treatment and support and access to the Employee Assistance Programme Care First.

3. Definitions

3.1. See Appendix A for definitions and abbreviations used throughout this Policy and Procedure.


Maternity Leave

Criteria for Entitlement

4.1. There is no qualifying length of service requirement for Maternity Leave (ML) or Occupational Maternity Pay (OMP) however staff will need to fulfil Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) qualifying requirements in order to receive statutory pay.


4.2. The legal minimum ML which employees are required to take is 2 weeks commencing with the day on which childbirth occurs, except where a child is born before the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC), when the compulsory ML starts on the day after the child is born. An employee can opt to return to work any time after the end of the 2-week compulsory leave period up to the end of the 52-week maximum ML period.

4.3. All employees on ML are entitled to the following:

  • Occupational Maternity Pay (OMP)

OMP is full pay for 18 weeks. This can be paid in either of the following ways:

(i) 18 weeks' full pay, or 
(ii) 9 weeks' full pay followed by 18 weeks' half pay.

4.4.In addition to OMP, an employee on ML will be eligible for SMP if she has at least 26 weeks' service at the Notification Week (15th week before the EWC) provided that the average earnings are above the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions.  
SMP is payable for a 39-week period and is included within the weeks of full pay. Payment for the two options is as follows:


Option (i)

Option (ii)

Not eligible for SMP: option(i)

Not eligible for SMP: option (ii)

1 – 9

Full pay (incorporating 6 weeks higher rate SMP + 3 weeks lower rate SMP)

Full pay (incorporating 6 weeks higher rate SMP + 3 weeks lower rate SMP)

Full pay

Full pay

10 - 18

Full pay (incorporating lower rate SMP)

Half pay + lower rate SMP

Full pay

Half pay

19 - 27

Lower rate SMP

Half pay (incorporating lower rate SMP)


Half pay

28 - 39

Lower rate SMP

Lower rate SMP



40 – 52





Please check the Government website for the current SMP rate

4.5. If the employee chooses not to return to work or not to continue to work for at least three months after the period of maternity leave, UCL will normally reclaim the whole or part of the non-statutory element of maternity pay. 

Notification of and Triggers for ML

4.6. Anyone wishing to request ML should follow the procedure outlined in Appendix B to this policy and notify her line manager of her EWC.

4.7. ML can start on any day of the week as it depends on:

  • When the employee wants to start her leave: the earliest that ML can start is 11 weeks before the EWC
  • Whether the employee has been off work with a pregnancy related illness: If a pregnant employee takes any time off work with a pregnancy-related condition in the 4 weeks prior to the EWC, ML will usually start automatically on the day after the first day of absence. However, the employee and their manager may not wish for the maternity leave to start automatically, for example if the employee has a mild pregnancy-related sickness, so they can agree that ML is not triggered.  In this situation the manager should record the details of the agreement in writing to avoid uncertainty over the start and end dates of the agreed maternity leave period.
  • When the baby is born: ML will start automatically the day after the baby is born, if the baby is born early, or stillborn after the start of the 24th week of pregnancy.

Antenatal Care

4.8. Employees who are pregnant are entitled to take reasonable paid time off during working hours for antenatal care. An employee whose partner is pregnant is entitled to request unpaid time off to accompany her/his partner to up to two such appointments.

Risk Assessment

4.9. Once an employee has confirmed she is pregnant, her line manager must review the existing risk assessment/s for her work and consider any risks to the health and safety of the pregnant mother and that of her unborn child.

Maternity Pay

4.10. Payment of Maternity Pay commences simultaneously with the beginning of the ML period and is paid monthly in arrears (in the same way salary is paid). Pay slips will be sent to the employee's home address when she is on ML.

Adoption Leave

Entitlement and Eligibility

4.11. The primary adoptive parent and someone with whom she/he is adopting a child, are both entitled to the same provision in terms of service requirements, pay, amount of leave, return to work, etc. as that which she/he would receive under UCL ML arrangements. Employees who are prospective primary adopters may take paid time off in order to attend up to five adoption meetings. Employees who are adopting a child with someone else who is the primary adopter, are entitled to take unpaid time off in order to attend up to two such meetings.

4.12. Adoption Leave (AL) can start anytime from the date that the adopted child is placed, or up to fourteen days before the date of the placement. Any employee who has been approved by an Adoption Agency or Social Services Department as an adoptive parent, can qualify for AL, although not when an individual adopts the child or children of a partner.

Adoption Pay

4.13. An employee on AL will be eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) if she/he has at least 26 weeks' service at the Notification Week (15th week before the expected adoption placement date) provided that the average earnings are above the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions.

4.14. SAP is payable for a 39 week period and is included within the weeks of Occupational Adoption Pay (OAP). AL taken between weeks 40 – 52 (13 weeks in total) is unpaid.

4.15. If the child's placement ends during the AL period, the adopter will be able to continue AL for up to eight weeks after the end of the week in which the placement stops. Payment of adoption pay continues for this eight week period, or until the end of the employees SAP period if that is sooner.

4.16. Payment of Adoption Pay commences simultaneously with the beginning of the AL period and is paid monthly in arrears (in the same way salary is paid). Pay slips will be sent to the employee's home address when she/he is on AL.


4.17. For information about how to request AL see Appendix B.

Shared Parental Leave

Criteria for Entitlement

4.18. There is no qualifying length of service requirement for Shared Parental Leave (ShPL) or Occupational Shared Parental Pay (OSPP) however staff need to fulfil Statutory Shared Parental Pay (SSPP) qualification requirements to receive statutory pay.

4.19. An employee can choose to bring her ML, or her/his AL to an end at any point after the compulsory two week period following the birth/adoption of the  child and to share the  remaining entitlement with her/his partner: Therefore the maximum amount of leave that can be shared between the parents is 50 weeks. The leave must be taken during the 12 months following the birth or adoption of a child.

4.20. If the partner of a primary adopter or woman who has given birth wishes to take leave during the first two weeks following the placement/birth of a child, she/he should request to use Paternity/Partner's Leave (PL) (see section 4.38 below).


4.21. ShPL can be taken by each parent separately.  Alternatively, some or all of it may be taken simultaneously.

4.22. To qualify for ShPL at UCL, an employee must have, or expect to have responsibility for caring for the child.

4.23. For ShPL to commence, the mother or primary adoptive parent must have given notice to end her/his ML or AL, or have returned to work.

4.24. An employee wishing to take ShPL must ensure the necessary notifications and declarations are completed and submitted to their line manager within the timescales specified. These can be found in Appendix D.

4.25. If the employee is not the mother or primary adoptive parent, UCL may request:

  • A copy of the birth certificate (or copy of MATB1/declaration from the parents if the birth certificate is not yet available)

or in the case of adoption:

  • The agency's name and address;
  • The date that the adopter was notified of being matched with the child;
  • The date on which the child is expected to be placed with the family;


  • The name and address of their partner's employer (or, if they are self-employed, a declaration from the partner that there is no employer).

4.26. In addition to Occupational Shared Parental Pay, an employee will be eligible for SSPP if they:

  • have been continuously employed by UCL for 26 weeks up to and including the 15th week before the EWC, or week in which they are matched for adoption; and
  • remain continuously employed in the week before any ShPL is due to start; and
  • have earned not less than the ‘lower earnings limit' in the relevant period. 

and additionally, their partner must:

  • have or expect to have responsibility for caring for the child;
  • have been an employed or self-employed earner in Great Britain for a total of 26 weeks (not necessarily continuously)in the period of 66 weeks leading up to the week the child is due (or matched for adoption);
  • have  earned an average of at least £30 a week in 13 of those 26 weeks; and
  • consent to the employee taking ShPL

Periods of Leave

4.27. Any period of ML/AL taken by the mother or primary adoptive parent will be deducted from the period of 50 weeks' ShPL, with the balance available to be shared between the parents. The leave can be taken subject to the following requirements:

  • It is for a minimum period of at least one week;
  • It is taken in multiples of complete weeks;
  • It is taken as one continuous period or as up to 3 discontinuous periods.

4.28. This means that a mother or primary adoptive parent can return to work after ML or AL and take ShPL at a later date or dates (subject to the notice requirements explained below). Similarly, her/his partner can take ShPL at any time.

4.29. ShPL can be taken by one parent whilst her/his partner is on another type of leave, such as Paternity Leave or Ordinary Parental Leave. Additionally, a mother or primary adopter does not have to have actually ended their ML/AL for ShPL to start for their partner, provided they have given the required 8 weeks notice of their intention to do so.


4.30. If an employee is eligible for and intends to take ShPL, she/he must provide her/his line manager with the following:

  • Notice indicating an intention to end ML or AL, if the employee is the mother/primary adopter or a separate notice of a partner's intention to do so;
  • A notice of entitlement to take ShPL (see Appendix D). The notice of entitlement must be submitted at least eight weeks before the employee intends to take a period of ShPL;
  • A notice of her/his planned period/s of ShPL using a Period of Leave Notice (PLN) form (see Appendix D).

4.31. An employee is entitled to submit three separate PLNs. This means that an employee could book three separate periods of ShPL during the child's first year in the family. A PLN is usually binding and cannot typically be withdrawn.

4.32. If an employee wishes to vary the period/s of ShPL requested, she/he must notify her/his line manager (see Appendix D).

Shared Parental Pay

4.33. An employee on ShPL will be eligible for SSPP if she/he has at least 26 weeks' service at the Notification Week (15th week before the EWC) provided that the average earnings are above the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions. 

4.34. SSPP is payable for a maximum of 37 weeks (as the mother/primary adopter must take the first 2 weeks following birth/adoption). SSPP is included within the weeks of OSPP.

4.35. Those on ShPL are eligible to receive up to 16 weeks OSPP for the first 16 weeks of leave taken after the 2 week period of compulsory ML/AL and a maximum of a further 21 weeks of SSPP. This is subject to the above eligibility and notice requirements having been satisfied. If the parents are sharing leave during this period they should nominate which partner will claim the enhanced occupational pay – or part thereof if they are sharing. The actual payment is not transferred between organisations so if a non-UCL partner is claiming the enhanced element the partner’s organisation will pay this, subject to eligibility.

4.36. SSPP is paid at a rate fixed by Government, or 90% of average weekly earnings if this is lower.  The remaining 13 weeks entitlement to ShPL, for employees entitled to SSPP, are unpaid.

4.37. Payment of Shared Parental Pay commences simultaneously with the beginning of the ShPL period and is paid monthly in arrears (in the same way salary is paid). Pay slips will be sent to the employee's home address when she/he is on ShPL.

Paternity/Partner's Leave

4.38. The partner of the mother or primary adoptive parent may take paid leave of up to 20 working days, pro rata for part time staff. This can be taken from 3 months before the EWC or the date of adoption and up to 3 months afterwards. Paternity/Partner's Leave and Pay (PL/P) does not have to be taken at one time and can be spread over this 6 month period. There is no qualifying length of service for entitlement to PL/P. An employee cannot take PL once a period of ShPL has commenced. For information about how to request PL see Appendix B.


4.39. If either or both the intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement works for UCL, each has a right to request unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments.

4.40. The birth mother of a child will be covered by the same provisions as outlined in ML arrangements (see 4.1 above).

4.41. An employee who is the primary adopter of a child born from a surrogate mother is entitled to the same provision in respect of service requirements, Occupational adoption pay, return to work etc. as outlined in AL arrangements (see 4.11 above).


4.42. There shall be no distinction between live and stillbirths in the granting of ML, ShPL, or PL, providing the pregnancy lasts for at least 24 weeks.

‘Keeping in Touch' and ‘Shared Parental Leave in Touch' days

4.43. An employee and her/his manager can (in cases of ML or AL) agree up to 10 'Keeping in Touch' (KIT) days and a maximum per employee of 20 ‘Shared Parental Leave in Touch' (SPLIT) days. Either the line manager or the employee can suggest the use of these days but they must be agreed by the line manager. Line manager/s will only agree to a KIT or SPLIT day when the day can be structured to ensure that it is used productively. Any work undertaken on a KIT or SPLIT day will be treated as a whole KIT or SPLIT day, irrespective of the actual amount of time spent at work and will count as a whole day's entitlement. Employees will receive equivalent paid time off in lieu for time spent working during KIT or SPLIT days. TOIL days should be agreed directly with the line manager to be taken on the employee's return from ML, AL or ShPL. KIT and SPLIT days not taken are not added to annual leave entitlement.

Continuity of Employment 

4.44. Employees are entitled to return to the same job if parental leave (of any type) of 26 weeks or less has been taken, regardless of the number of periods of leave.

4.45. Employees who take more than 26 weeks' parental leave have the right to return to either the same job, or a similar job if it is not reasonably practicable to return to the same position. Where an employee exercises her/his right of returning to work, the whole of her/his absence shall be regarded as part of her/his period of continuous employment for the calculation of superannuation, seniority benefits, accrual of annual leave and of entitlement to statutory rights.

Annual Leave 

4.46. Annual leave (including bank holidays and UCL closure days) is accrued throughout the whole period of ML, ShPL or AL.

Financial Assistance for Departments 

4.47. In the event that an employee applies to take ML, AL, ShPL or PL under this policy, the Department may request financial assistance to cover the duties of the absent employee which need to be undertaken within the period of absence and which cannot be covered by other staff in the department within their usual working week.

4.48. The majority of Research Councils permit Principal Investigators to extend the duration of a research project by the length of ML, AL, or ShPL, or the employment of a second Researcher.

4.49. To ensure full financial support can be obtained, including financial support from Research Councils, contact should be made at the earliest opportunity with either the relevant finance or research administration contact.

Reorganising Duties 

4.50. In the event that full cover of the duties of the absent employee are not  required (because for example, an individual's research cannot be easily picked up by another person) the line manager may, following consultation with the affected staff, propose some fixed term reorganisation of duties within the team.

Transition from Part-time to Full-time Work 

4.51. UCL is committed to supporting its employees in maintaining a 'work life balance'. Employees who take extended leave such as ML, AL, ShPL, PL or Ordinary Parental Leave sometimes wish to return to work on a part-time basis. This arrangement may only be required in the short to medium term. If an employee wishes to return to working full time, there is no automatic financial barrier to prevent them from doing so. Such requests should be considered on a case-by-case basis and refused only where there is an objective business reason. The option of reverting to full time working should be discussed ahead of the extended leave being taken. For further information about UCL’s commitment and approach to balancing family and work commitments see the Work Life Balance Policy.

End of Employment 

4.52. For employees with open-ended appointments who decide not to return to work following a period of ML, AL or ShPL, employment will end once entitlement to SMP, SAP, SSPP, or ASPP and accumulated annual leave is exhausted, unless she/he commences employment with another employer prior to this date. An employee choosing not to return to work, should give her/his line manager notice of this intention in line with the terms of her/his contract of employment. Ending of employment in this manner is treated as a resignation.

4.53. Employees choosing not to return to work after a period of ML, AL or ShPL accumulate entitlement to annual leave, which must be taken at the end of this period. Under these circumstances, an employee's appointment will terminate on the last day of annual leave. At the end of the statutory pay period, wages will continue to be paid at the rate of full pay for any accumulated entitlement to untaken annual leave, after which a P45 will be sent to the employee's home address.

4.54. For employees whose contract ends during the period of parental leave (of whatever type), e.g. end of fixed term contract or redundancy, UCL will pay the appropriate occupational pay entitlement until the last day of employment. After this date, if an employee is entitled to statutory pay, this will be paid until the end of the 39-week period, plus any outstanding annual leave.

4.55. UCL rules about managing redundancy apply during ML, AL or ShPL, including the full range of measures to support redeployment options.

Fertility Leave 

4.56. This type of leave is available for those receiving Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment. UCL recognises the physical and emotional stress of undergoing fertility testing and treatment for assisted conception and understands the impact this can have on employees. For the purposes of the support available under this policy, a distinction has been drawn between the testing and treatment stages. Wherever possible, appointments for the investigation of, and testing for, fertility problems should be arranged outside of normal working hours. Where flexible working arrangements are not practical, time taken during working hours will be treated in the same way as for other doctor/hospital appointments and will be paid.

4.57. To support a female employee undergoing treatment for assisted conception, up to 5 days of paid leave in any 12 month period may be taken (pro-rata for part-time employees) for the purpose of receiving and recovering from IUI or IVF treatment. If time off is required due to the side effects of treatment, this will be treated as sickness absence. Sickness absence taken following implantation of a fertilised ovum that is related to the procedure itself, will not be counted towards the triggers in the Sickness Absence Policy.

4.58. Should an employee exhaust the time allowed under this policy, discussion with the individual will help to establish whether annual leave, sickness absence or any other type of leave or flexible working arrangements would be the most applicable.

4.59. Male or female employees, who would like to take time off work to support a partner undergoing fertility treatment will need to take annual leave, however when a medical appointment is required as part of the treatment process, this will be treated in the same way as for other doctor/hospital appointments.


4.60. Where an employee fosters on a regular basis or is a 'professional' foster carer, she/he is not entitled to any kind of parental leave in a fostering capacity, other than in exceptional circumstances. In the case of a request under these circumstances, the manager should contact HR Advisory Services for advice.

Ordinary Parental Leave 

4.61. Ordinary Parental Leave (OPL) is the term used by UCL to apply to all parental leave granted under ‘The Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999' (as amended by ‘The Parental Leave (EU Directive) Regulations 2013'). OPL can be used by employees wanting to spend more time with their children, in order to balance work and family commitments. A parent (father, mother or other person with formal parental responsibility for a child under the age of 18) who has one year's continuous service with UCL, is entitled to apply for OPL. OPL is unpaid. The current entitlement is for up to a total of 18 weeks OPL per child (including multiple births). Where both parents work for UCL, each can apply for up to 18 weeks of OPL under this Policy. Part time employees have a pro rata entitlement to OPL.

4.62. OPL can be requested in blocks of time agreed with the employee's line manager, taking into account the nature of the work, for up to a maximum of four weeks per block of leave, for each individual child in any one year. OPL can also be taken by the employee reducing her/his working hours on a temporary basis.

4.63. Line managers may on occasion require an employee to postpone OPL for a period of up to six months, if the needs of the service require them to do so. Exceptions to this requirement may be where the leave is triggered by the birth or adoption of a child, or when it is requested immediately following a period of ML, AL, ShPL or PL. Factors which may require the line manager to request the postponement of OPL could include the need to:

  • avoid clashing with a peak workload or holiday period;
  • take into account the absence of colleagues;
  • find a way in which the work of the employee can be covered.

4.64. An employee taking OPL cannot undertake paid employment with any other employer whilst on OPL, during their normal contracted hours. The employment contract with UCL continues throughout the period of OPL. An employee accumulates entitlement to statutory annual leave during periods of OPL but can only take annual leave at the end of a period of OPL or after she/he returns to work. Superannuation contributions will be suspended during periods of OPL. Any unpaid ‘Parental Leave' taken in respect of a child whilst working for an employer prior to employment with UCL, counts towards an individual's overall entitlement to OPL in respect of that child. Where there is disagreement between the employee and the line manager as to the type of parental leave for which she/he should apply, the manager should contact HR Advisory Services for advice.

Sabbatical Leave 

4.65. In addition to the provisions of this policy and to mark its commitment to gender equality in academic careers, research active academic employees returning from ML, AL or ShPL (where any of these individually or combined totals more than 3 months duration) are entitled to take one term of Sabbatical Leave, without teaching commitments, in accordance with the principles set out in the Sabbatical Leave Policy. This leave will enable staff more quickly to re-establish research activity.

Monitoring and Review 

4.66. The HR Policy and Planning Team will keep the monitoring of parental leave and the operation of this policy under review.


Shared Parental Leave FAQs

Appendix D: Forms

Download individual forms for completion: NB these are MS Word 2010 documents

Download full policy and process document. 

HR Strategy & Planning
January 2015

Page updated JT 09-08-2017