The definition of parental leave in the UK is when an employee takes time off work to look after their children’s welfare. This could involve organising childcare arrangements, looking at new schools or just spending time with their children.
Parental leave shouldn’t be confused with Shared Parental Leave, which is when parents split maternity or adoption leave between them.
Is parental leave paid?
It’s really important to be consistent with parental leave pay, so all employees must receive the same amount if you choose to pay.
Parental leave entitlement
Employees are entitled to take parental leave if they:
- have at least one year’s continuous employment within your business;
- have or expect to have responsibility for the child (for example, they are the biological or adoptive parent, or otherwise have legal parental responsibility);
- are taking time off to spend time with and/or care for the child; and
- haven’t already used up their parental leave allowance, including in previous employment (the allowance carries over from job to job).
The leave can start as soon as the child is born or adopted, and the employee can take up to 18 weeks’ parental leave per child. If the employee works part time, this means it will be the equivalent of 18 of their working weeks.
A maximum of four weeks’ unpaid parental leave can be taken per year, per child.
This must be taken before the child’s 18th birthday and can only be taken in blocks of one or multiple weeks. Individual days can only be taken if the child is disabled and on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
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Parental leave and employee rights
If one of your employees requests leave, it’s important that they don’t receive any adverse treatment for doing so. Although their absence may mean that overall output will decrease, you must take care not to treat them unfavourably, as this will likely result in a discrimination claim.
Parental leave requests
When requesting parental leave, employees should give at least 21 days’ notice before they want it to start. It’s a good idea to ask that they provide this notice in writing so that you can keep it for your records and save it securely within your HR software.
If the employee wants to take leave immediately after their child is born or adopted, they should give notice of 21 days before the expected week of childbirth or placement.
Postponing a parental leave request
As an employer, you cannot refuse a request, but you have the right to postpone it for up to six months. If you choose to postpone it, you must let the employee know in writing within seven days of their request.
You’ll have to explain why you’ve postponed it and tell them when their leave can be taken. It can’t be postponed immediately after a birth or adoption.
If you postpone a period of parental leave you must make sure that it’s completed before the child’s 18th birthday, even if this is less than six months away from the date of the original request.
Create a parental leave policy
As with many of the HR headaches that we write about, the best advice we can give you is: create a policy!
A clear parental leave policy will lay out both yours and your employees’ rights, helping to save time spent answering questions and to protect you in the case of claims. The policy should cover:
- Who is entitled
- Notice period required when making a request
- Evidence needed to prove legal responsibility of child
- Right to postpone
- Payment (if given)
- Employee rights during their leave
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If you have a member of staff requesting parental leave and would like some advice on creating a parental leave policy, our HR consultants can help.
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