PARENTAL LEAVE UK: A useful guide for employers and employees on unpaid parental leave entitlement.
There is further information about employee parental leave eligibility.
This section also explains how maternity leave notice periods work.
Most employees will qualify for taking unpaid time off work. It gives them an opportunity to arrange better child welfare.
Time away offers an easier opportunity to balance work commitments with family life. Thus, parental leave allows parents to:
- Enjoy more ‘quality time’ of a newborn’s early years with the rest of the family.
- Organise new childcare arrangements and research what different types of schools are available.
- Spend time with their child during a period in a hospital.
- Settle their child or children into new arrangements for childcare.
Note: Your employment rights while on leave remain protected (e.g. holidays, pay, and returning to a job).
Unpaid Parental Leave Entitlement
The parental leave entitlement is unpaid. All qualifying employees may take a total of 18 weeks leave from work without pay. Each qualifying parent can take no more than 4 weeks of the entitlement in one year for each child.
Parental leave is an individual right. That means you cannot transfer leave entitlement between parents. So, if a father takes a set number of weeks the mother cannot use up the balance.
The limits for taking unpaid parental leave count for each child you have until they reach 18 years of age. The same rules and limits apply if you have adopted children.
You can separate whole weeks of unpaid parental leave entitlement. That means you can take one week off or several consecutive weeks. But you cannot split the whole week into individual days away from work.
As a rule, a whole week refers to the length of time you work over a seven day period.
Example 1: An employee who works 4 regular days a week can take 4 days of parental leave as one of the whole weeks.
If the same person works irregular weeks then the entitlement needs a calculation. One whole week would equal the total number of days worked divided by 52.
Note: An exception applies to this ruling if you have a disabled child. Your employer can also agree to different scheduling for parental leave.
Carry Over Parental Leave to a New Job
The parental leave entitlement applies to each child and not the job you have. That means you can carry over the leave from a previous job to your new one.
Example 2: The total unpaid parental leave entitlement is 18 weeks for all qualifying employees.
If you have used 8 weeks on a previous employment, you can carry over 10 remaining weeks to your new job.
Parental Leave Eligibility Criteria
You must have employee status to meet the criteria for parental leave eligibility. Qualifying employees must also fulfill all these requirements:
- The child is under 18 years old.
- Your name is on their birth certificate or adoption papers (includes formal parental rights and responsibility).
- You have been working with the company for at least one year of continuous service.
- You are not acting as a foster parent (unless the courts secured parental responsibility).
- You are not classed as self-employed or ‘contractor or agency worker’.
Note: Foster parents can request a flexible working pattern instead.
Your employer can request reasonable proof before granting you parental leave the first time. As a rule, showing the child’s birth certificate is suffice.
In some cases your employer may grant or extend parental leave even if you do not qualify. Check your staff handbook for further information about being ineligible for parental leave.
If you are ineligible for parental leave and need urgent time off work to care for your child you may choose to:
- Take a paid holiday or try to get unpaid time off.
- Ask your employer or HR to consider any alternative options such as flexible working.
- Consider making a complaint using the internal grievance procedures of employment.
Receiving Pay While on Parental Leave
Parental Leave Notice Period to Employer
The parental leave notice period you must give to your employer is 21 days. You must also provide the same advance notice if you are taking time off to have a baby (or adopting). The notice period begins 21 days before you expect to have the baby.
You must also confirm the start and end dates of your parental leave notice period for your employer. It is not necessary for the confirmation to be in writing unless your employer requests it.
Parental Leave Postponement (delay)
Employers cannot postpone or delay parental leave if:
- There is no ‘significant reason’ for leave postponement.
- The father or partner takes parental leave immediately after a birth of a child (or adoption).
- The employee would no longer qualify (e.g. delaying the leave after the child turns 18).
If your employer postpones your parental leave they must:
- Inform you of the reason for postponing your leave in writing (within 7 days of your original request).
- Not alter or reduce the period of leave you are requesting.
- Offer you a new start date scheduled within 6 months of your original requested start date.