Right to parental leave

What is the right to parental leave?

It is an employee’s right to be absent from work for the purpose of caring for a child for whom they have parental responsibility. They can use it to spend more time with their children and achieve a better balance between their work and family life.

Who is entitled to it?

A child’s parents have the right to take up to 13 weeks’ parental leave within the first five years of the child’s life. The parents of an adopted child have the right to take up to 13 weeks’ parental leave before the fifth anniversary of the adoption, or the child’s 18th birthday, whichever occurs sooner.

The parents of a disabled child may take up to 18 weeks’ parental leave up until the child’s 18th birthday. To qualify for parental leave in all these cases, an employee must have completed at least one year’s continuous service with the employer.

Must employees be paid during parental leave?

Employees have no statutory right to be paid during parental leave. It will depend on the arrangements put in place by individual employers.

Can a period of just one day’s parental leave be taken?

Unless a workforce agreement permits otherwise, parental leave must be taken in blocks of one week or multiples of one week. This was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in Rodway v New Southern Railways Ltd (formerly South Central Trains Ltd) 18 April 2005 CA.

The exception is where the employee in question is the parent of a child who has been awarded Disability Living Allowance, in which case parental leave can be taken in blocks of a day or multiples of a day.

Can both parents of a child take parental leave in relation to that child?

Yes. The right is available to both parents. It is also available in respect of each child. This means that an employee who is the parent of twins, for example, will able to take up to 13 weeks’ parental leave in respect of each twin.

What is the procedure for taking parental leave under the fallback provisions?

The fallback provisions will apply automatically where no other parental leave agreement has been put in place.

Under the fallback provisions, a maximum of four weeks’ parental leave per year can be taken.

If asked, employees must provide documentary evidence confirming entitlement.

They must also give at least 21 days’ notice of the dates on which they wish to take parental leave.

Parents wishing to take parental leave from the date of a child’s birth or adoption must specify the week in which the birth or placement is expected, and the duration of the intended period of leave.

What is the procedure for postponing parental leave under the fallback provisions?

An employer may postpone a requested period of parental leave for up to six months, if the employee’s absence from work during that period would cause substantial disruption or harm to the employer’s business.

However, an employer has no legal right to postpone a period of parental leave that is intended to begin on the day on which the employee’s child is born or placed for adoption.

The employer must first discuss the situation with the employee, agree an alternative date for taking the leave, and write to the employee confirming the new arrangements.

The employer’s letter must be sent within seven days of the date on which the employee’s initial request for leave was submitted.

The new period agreed should be the same length as the period in the employee’s original request.

Must an employee’s ex-employer inform their new employer of any parental leave taken?

Employers are not obliged to maintain records of the amount of parental leave employees have taken.

However, most will wish to do so for their own purposes.

Similarly, they are under no duty to inform an ex-employee’s new employer of the amount of parental leave they have taken, although in practice, many employers would be willing to do so if asked.

A new employer may, however, have to rely on the statement of the employee with regard to this.

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