An Employers Guide to Parental Leave

from Silk Helix
Photograph of Jenefer Livings, Founder of Silk Helix Ltd
UPDATED 20 February 2024
First Published: 4 August 2022
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What is Parental Leave?

Ordinary Parental Leave is the right to time off each year and is different to Shared Parental Leave.

Parental Leave is unpaid and can be taken in blocks or multiples of one week only, up to a maximum of 4 weeks for each child in any one year. The exception is when the child has been awarded disability living allowance or personal independence payment, in which case leave may be taken as individual days or blocks of days.

Parental leave must be taken for the purpose of caring for a child, this could include settling them into a new care setting or school, care following a planned operation or due to school holidays.

How Much Parental Leave Can an Employee Take?

A parent or person with parental responsibility can take up to 4 weeks parental leave per child who has yet to reach their 18th birthday, in any one year, however, a maximum of 18 weeks in total per child also applies.

Who is Entitled to Parental Leave?

Anyone who:

  • has one year of continuous service
  • has a birth or adoptive child under the age of 18 (up to the date of the 18th birthday)
  • have or expect to have responsibility for the child (which could include step parents)

An employer can ask for evidence of parenthood or parental responsibility.

How Much Notice Must an Employee Give?

An employee wishing to take parental leave must give their employer at least 21 days’ notice of their intention to take parental leave and the duration of the leave.

An expectant father (or others with parental responsibility) can request parental leave from the day of the birth by giving 21 days notice prior to the expected week of birth. Equally an employee wanting to take parental leave from the date of placement of adoption must give 21 days notice prior the expected week of placement giving the week placement is expected (or as soon as reasonably possible if 21 days notice is not possible).

An employer may postpone a request for parental leave by a period of up to 6 months (provided this is before the 18th birthday) if the employee’s absence from work during that period would unduly disrupt the operation of the business. However, leave cannot be postponed by the employer when taken immediately on birth or placement of a child. The employer should discuss any need to postpone with the employee and write to the employee within 7 days of receiving the notice stating the reason for the postponement and dates leave can be taken.

What Records Must We Keep?

There is no obligation to maintain records or to pass on details of parental leave taken when giving a reference.

Where no details are available from the previous employer the current employer must rely on the details given by the employee.

What is the Difference Between Parental Leave and Time Off for Dependants?

Parental leave is planned leave and only available to parents or those with parental responsibility. Time off for Dependants is the entitlement to reasonable, unpaid and unplanned time off to deal with the following circumstances:

  • To provide assistance when a dependant falls ill, gives birth or is injured or assaulted. “Dependent” for these purposes also includes anyone who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance when they fall ill, or are injured or assaulted.
  • To make arrangements for the provision of care of a dependant who is ill or injured. “Dependent” for these purposes also includes anyone who reasonably relies on the employee for the provision of care in the event of illness or injury.
  • When a dependent dies.
  • Because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant. “Dependent” for these purposes also includes anyone who reasonably relies on the employee to make arrangements for the provision of care.
  • When a child of the employee is involved in an incident at school.

A “dependant” is defined as a spouse, civil partner, parent or person who lives in the same household as the employee other than as an employee, tenant, lodger or boarder. The right to time off is only that time necessary to deal with the unexpected circumstances. The definition of reasonable should not consider the disruption or inconvenience to the employee.

While this guide covers the basics, every situation has its own complexities so you should always seek professional advice.
We can help, so book a Free Advice Call .

Article last updated: 20 February 2024

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