Law guide: Workplace

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Parental leave

Parental leave

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 before the child's 18th birthday. There is no requirement for an employee to be paid during parental leave.

When is it available?

Parental leave is available to employees who have, or expect to have, parental responsibility for a child. To be eligible, you will generally have to have one year's continuous service with your current employer.

You will get 18 weeks' leave in total for each child. A maximum of four weeks' parental leave in a year can be taken for each child.

Details of parental leave

You can take parental leave in short or long blocks (depending on what has been agreed with your employer) which must be taken in periods of one week, or multiples of one week.

You must give your employer at least 21 days' notice of a wish to take parental leave. Your employer can postpone the leave for up to 6 months where the business would be particularly disrupted if the leave is taken at the requested time. But leave cannot be postponed when if you give notice to take it immediately after a the child is born or is placed with you for adoption.

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 your role is such that absence at a particular time would unduly harm the business.

After parental leave

You will have the right return to a job with the same seniority, pension rights and similar rights. You will also have the right to return to a job with the same terms and conditions (including remuneration) that are as favourable as they would have been if you had not gone on leave.

Right to return to the same job

Northern Ireland

You will be entitled to return to the same job that you had before taking leave if you took no more than 4 weeks of parental leave (in addition to any ordinary maternity leave) and no additional maternity leave.

England, Wales and Scotland

You will be entitled to return to the same job that you had before taking leave if you:

  • took no more than 4 weeks of parental leave; or
  • the parental leave of 4 weeks or less followed another period of statutory leave (such as additional maternity leave or shared parental leave but not parental leave) and the total leave taken for the child was 26 weeks or less.

Right to return to the same or alternative job after leave

When parental leave follows a period of additional maternity leave or a period of leave doesn't follow the above rules regarding the right to return to the same job, the general rule is that you will be entitled to return to the same job you had before taking leave. However, if your employer cannot reasonably return you to the same job, you will be entitled to a similar job that has the same or better status and terms and conditions as the old job. The new job must be both suitable and appropriate for you to do in the circumstances. A suitable and appropriate alternative job must be as close as possible to your previous role.

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