Can we decide between ourselves how to share the maternity leave between us?

Yes. You can even both be off work together.Under the statutory scheme, leave can normally be divided into a maximum of three separate chunks of time (although an employer can choose to accept more). However there are limits. For example:

  • Shared parental leave can only be taken in complete weeks, not days (e.g. if it starts on a Tuesday, it will finish the following Monday);
  • Your partner must take the first two weeks of maternity leave (four weeks if she is a factory worker). This is known as 'compulsory maternity leave';
  • Leave can only be divided between two people with responsibility for the child. At the moment, you cannot, for example, allocate some of the leave to a working grandparent (although there are government plans to look into changing this);
  • You can insist on taking your leave allocation in one continuous period of time, whatever its impact on the employer, but if you want to split it into separate chunks of time (in the rules this is called 'discontinuous' leave), your employer has a right to reject your request. If this happens (or if the employer fails to respond at all), you remain entitled to your leave, but you must take it in one continuous block of time, or else withdraw your request altogether.

You can find out more information in our Shared Parental Leave section. There is also a useful TUC workSMART guide, Leave and Pay for Mothers (PDF, 131KB), which includes information about shared parental leave.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.