Parental leave

With the summer holidays approaching, childcare over the school holidays is a challenge many parents face. Parental leave can help; it's parents' right to time off.

Parental leave is unpaid and available to parents and those responsible for a child who has yet to reach their 18th birthday. There is a total entitlement of 18 weeks per child, limited to 4 weeks per child per year.

Parents must take parental leave in blocks or multiples of one week. There is an exception to this rule when the child has been awarded disability living allowance or personal independence payment; in these situations, leave may be taken as individual days or blocks of days.

Parental leave is only permitted for the purpose of caring for a child; for example, when settling them into a new care setting or school, providing care following a planned operation or due to school holidays.

Who is Entitled to Parental Leave?

Any employee who:

● has one year of continuous service

● has a birth or adoptive child who has not yet reached their 18th birthday

● have or expect to have responsibility for the child (which could include stepparents)

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

How Much Notice Must an Employee Give?

Employees must give at least 21 days' notice of their intention to take parental leave and the duration of the leave.

Any employee due to have parental responsibility upon the birth of a child can request parental leave to start from the actual date of the birth by giving 21 days' notice before the expected week of birth. The same applies to adoption, where notice must be given 21 days prior to the expected week of placement, giving the date 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 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 delay with the employee and write to the employee within seven days of receiving the notice stating the reason for the postponement and the dates that leave can be taken.

Alternative Leave for Parents

Parental leave is a planned absence, ideal for managing the school holidays and other scheduled events. Employees also have a right to unpaid time off for dependents when it's an unexpected incident, such as an ill child.

This guest post was written by Jenefer Livings, Founder of Silk Helix Ltd

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Written by Jenefer Livings, Founder of Silk Helix Ltd - HR Support for Business Owners. We take the stress out of managing your people. Whether it's the admin, employment law compliance or improving productivity, we're here for you.