Parental leave is a statutory right, available to all employees, but it is not frequently used.
However, it can come in handy for some parents who may have utilised all of their holiday entitlement, especially during the school holiday periods or towards the end of the holiday allowance.
What is parental leave?
Parental leave is time off that employees who are parents are allowed to take to spend time with their child up until the child's 18th birthday.
Employees are entitled to take up to eighteen weeks of parental leave per child.
An employee may wish to take parental leave to:
- stay with a child who is in hospital
- spend more time with a child
- make school/childcare arrangements and to help them settle in
- when they have no childcare available
Pay during parental leave
Parental leave is usually unpaid.
Paul Burton, Head of Frettens' Employment Team, says “An employer can pay staff taking parental leave if they choose to but there is no obligation on them to do so. If an employer does pay for parental leave this should be clearly set out in the terms and conditions of employment. All contractual terms and conditions other than pay should continue throughout a period of parental leave.”
Who can take parental leave?
In order to qualify for parental leave an individual must:
- be an employee
- have been employed continuously by the employer for at least 12 months
- have a child under the age of 18 and be named on the child's birth/adoption certificate
- have legal parental responsibility for the child
If the child's parents are separated or the employee does not live with the child, they have the right to parental leave if they have formal parental responsibility for the child.
Requesting parental leave
To request parental leave an employee should give at least 21 days' notice to their employer. The employer may require this to be made in writing.
Employees can take parental leave at any time up until the child's 18th birthday but cannot take more than four weeks in any one year.
Can employers refuse parental leave?
Employers have a right to postpone parental leave if it is in a period which is going to disrupt the business.
The employer has the option of postponing the leave for up to six months after the original requested start date. If an employer is going to postpone the leave they must write to the employee within seven days of receiving the request, stating why the leave is being postponed and giving new dates for the leave to be taken.
At Frettens, all of our solicitors offer a free initial meeting or chat on the phone to answer your questions. If this article raises issues for you or your business, please call us on 01202 499255 and Paul or Kate will be happy to discuss it with you.