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URN No: 06/566
What is parental leave?
Parental leave is a right for parents to take 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.
Who can take parental leave?
Parental leave is available to employees who have, or expect to have, parental responsibility for a child. To be eligible, employees generally have to have one year's continuous service with their current employer. However, special rules apply for parents of children born, or placed for adoption, before 14 December 1999. They will be eligible for parental leave from their current employer if they completed one year's continuous service with another employer between 15 December 1998 and 9 January 2002.
Employees get 13 weeks in total for each child. Parents of disabled children get 18 weeks in total.
Employees will be able to take parental leave in short or long blocks depending on what has been agreed where they work, (for the purposes of parental leave a "disabled child" is one for whom an award of disability living allowance has been made).
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).
When can parental leave be taken?
As long as they give the correct notice to their employer, parents are able to take parental leave at any time up to the cut off point which applies to them:
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.
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:
If an employer considers that an employee’s absence would unduly disrupt the business, then the employer can postpone the leave for no longer than six months after the beginning of the period that the employee originally wanted to start his or her parental leave. The employer should discuss the matter with the employee and confirm the postponement arrangements in writing no later than seven days after the employee’s notice to take leave. The employer’s notice should state the reason for the postponement and set out the new dates of parental leave. The length of the leave should be equivalent to the employee’s original request.
Employers may be justified in postponing leave when, for example, the work is at a seasonal peak; where a significant proportion of the workforce applies for parental leave at the same time; or, when the employee’s role is such that his or her absence at a particular time would unduly harm the business.
When an employee applies to take parental leave immediately after the birth or adoption of a child, then the employer cannot postpone the leave. The employee needs to give 21 days’ notice before the beginning of the expected week of childbirth (expectant mothers will be able to provide this information to their partners). In the case of adoption, the employee needs to give 21 days’ notice of the expected week of placement. In rare cases where this is not possible, an adoptive parent should give the notice as soon as is reasonably practicable.
Employers are not required to keep records of parental leave taken, although many will want to do so for their own purposes. When an employee changes jobs, employers will be free to make enquiries of a previous employer or seek a declaration from the employee about how much parental leave he or she has taken.
An employer can ask to see evidence to confirm the employee is the parent or the person who is legally responsible for the child; evidence might take the form of information contained in the child’s birth certificate, papers confirming a child’s adoption or the date of placement in adoption cases, or in the case of a disabled child, the award of disability living allowance for the child. The employer’s request must be reasonable; it may not be reasonable for him to check on the employee’s entitlement on every occasion on which leave is asked for.
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.
Employees have the right to take time off work to deal with a family emergency, giving all employees the right to take a reasonable period of time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant, such as a child, and not to be dismissed or victimised for doing so. for more details see:
Acas is able to provide further advice on employment law matters. The Acas Helpline number is 08457 47 47 47.