What Is Parental Leave and How Long Can Employees Take?
3 Minute Read
3 Minute Read

What is parental leave?

The clearer answer is probably, what isn’t it.

It isn’t, Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, Adoption Leave or Shared Parental Leave. Those types of leave are limited to when an employee has or adopts a baby, are their paid (and unpaid) leave entitlements immediately before, during and following that period.

Parental Leave is an unpaid period of leave. A parent is entitled to take 18 weeks leave for each child and adopted child up to their 18th birthday. The limit per year per child is 4 weeks (unless as an organisation you agree more).

It can only be taken in periods of whole weeks (not individual days) and you don’t have to take the leave all at once.

A ‘week’ is the period the employee normally works in a 7-day period.

How does it work if an employee starts with the business, and they have already used some?

The leave attaches to the child, not the job an employee holds. So you could have an employee with for example a 10-year-old who has used 8 weeks of their leave so far and will have 10 weeks remaining that they can use in accordance with the rules whilst employed by you.

Are all parents eligible?

Not necessarily, an employee must have been with you for more than a year. They must also be named on the child’s birth or adoption certificate, or they expect to have parental responsibility.

It doesn’t apply to agency workers, or the self-employed and it can’t be used by foster parents unless parental responsibility has been granted through the courts.

It can also only be used for children under the age of 18, even if the person still lives at home.

Can an employee take it whenever they want?

No, they can’t just call up and tell you they are not coming in as they are taking parental leave.

Employees have to give 21 days’ notice of their intended start date and they must confirm to you their start and end date for the leave.

What if I need the employee to postpone it?

Generally, this is difficult to do, you would need to be able to show a significant reason that would cause serious disruption for the business.

It also can’t be postponed when as a result of delaying it the child will subsequently be 18, the leave can’t be postponed.

If a father or partner is taking the leave immediately after the birth or adoption of a child, that can’t be postponed either.

If you are telling an employee that the leave is to be postponed you must write and explain why within 7 days of the original request, suggest a new start date within 6 months of the requested start date and you can’t change the amount of leave that is being requested.

Generally parental leave is a last resort for parents, it might be they have no paid holiday remaining, are anticipating a difficult period with childcare or have run out of options and as a result need unpaid leave. Postponing it is likely to create significant difficulties for a staff member and you should give serious thought to the effect it could have on the relationship with the employee.

Are you ready to become your workplace hero?

Our blog emphasises that parental leave is typically a last resort, necessitated by exhausted paid leave or anticipated childcare challenges, urging employers to consider the potential strain on employee relationships when contemplating postponement.

Unsure how to navigate parental leave with your employees? Contact us today for specialist advice.