29 March 2009
Parental Leave was introduced to give parents the right to take a period of unpaid time off work to look after a child or make arrangements for the child's welfare.
Parents can use it to spend more time with children and strike a better balance between their work and family commitments.
Eligibility to take Parental Leave
- If you have a baby or adopt a child on or after 15 December 1999 and have completed one year's qualifying service with your employer by the time you want to take the leave.
- If you had a baby or adopted a child between 15 December 1994 and 14 December 1999 and you have completed one years' continuous service either with your current employer or a previous employer during 15 December 1998 and 9 January 2002.
Both mothers and fathers can take parental leave.
Duration of parental leave and when it can be taken
You can take up to 13 weeks in total for each child. Parents of disabled children can take up to 18 weeks in total. Parental Leave can be taken in short or long blocks depending on what has been agreed where they work.
You can choose to take parental leave any time:
- Parents of children born on or after 15 December 1999 can take the leave up until the child's fifth birthday.
- In adoption cases, where the date of placement is on or after 15 December 1999, for five years after the child is first placed with the family for adoption (or until the child's 18th birthday if that comes sooner).
- If your child is disabled (receiving Disability Living Allowance) you have the right to take up to 18 weeks parental leave until their 18th birthday.
Parental leave is for each child, so if twins are born each parent will get 13 weeks leave for each child (18 weeks for parents of each disabled child).
Returning to work after parental leave
At the end of parental leave, an employee is guaranteed the right to return to the same job as before if the leave was for a period of four weeks or less; if it was for a longer period the employee is entitled to return to the same job, or, if that is not reasonably practicable, a similar job which has the same or better status, terms and conditions as the old job.
When parental leave follows maternity leave, the general rule is that a woman is entitled to return to the same job she had before the leave. If at the end of additional maternity leave, this would not have been reasonably practicable, and it is still not reasonably practicable at the end of parental leave, she is entitled to return to a similar job which has the same or better status, terms and conditions as the old job.
Applying for parental leave
Employers and employees can agree their own procedures for taking parental leave. They can do this by using workforce or collective agreements or through individual arrangements. Any of these agreements will apply to an employee only if it is part of the employee's contract of employment. There is a fallback scheme which will apply automatically where employers and their employees have no other agreement operating.
Under the fallback scheme the following provisions will apply:
- in most cases, leave must be taken in blocks or multiples of one week, the exception to the above is that parents of disabled children can take leave in blocks or multiples of one day,
- in all cases a maximum of four weeks' parental leave in a year can be taken in respect of any individual child,
- 21 days' notice must be given,
- the employer can postpone the leave for up to six months where the business would be particularly disrupted if the leave were taken at the time requested,
- but leave cannot be postponed when the employee gives notice to take it immediately after the time the child is born or is placed with the family for adoption.
Your rights if parental leave is refused
Employees will have the right to go to an employment tribunal if the employer prevents or attempts to prevent them from taking parental leave. An employee who takes parental leave will also be protected from victimisation, including dismissal, for taking it.