The Detailed Rules on Parental Leave

Last updated: 29 Sep 2020

How much Parental Leave can I take?

How do I book Parental Leave?

Can my employer decide when  I can go on Parental Leave?

What are my rights and benefits during Parental Leave?

You should first check whether your employer has a Collective or Workplace Agreement about parental leave. If it does not, the default scheme below applies. If there is a Workforce or Collective Agreement, your employer is free to have different rules if they wish.

How much Parental Leave can I take?

You have to take parental leave a week at a time, but if your child is on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP), you can take parental leave a day at a time.

Under the default scheme, each parent may not take more than four weeks in any one year for each qualifying child (and 18 weeks in total for each child). If you have 2 children, you can take up to 8 weeks per year and 36 weeks in total.

If you work a different number of days per week or if you’re required to work some weeks of the year but not other, you need to calculate an average working week. To do so, you divide the total periods for which you are normally required to work in a year by 52.

If for instance you work Monday to Thursday during term time (40 weeks), and on Mondays and Wednesdays during the school holidays (twelve weeks).

Total of annual work periods (in days):
Term time: 40 x 4 = 160;
Working during school holidays: 12 x 2 = 24
Total = 184 days
Average per week: 184 / 52 = 3.53

So, for you, one week’s parental leave amounts to 3.53 days. The default scheme entitlement of up to four weeks’ parental leave in any one year would equate to 14.15 days which, during term time, would allow you three calendar weeks plus 2 days of the fourth week. During the school holidays, it would equate to seven calendar weeks.

How do I book Parental Leave?

You must give your employer at least 21 days’ notice to take parental leave. The notice letter must state the start and end dates of the leave.

Can my employer decide when I can go on Parental Leave?

Your employer cannot refuse but they can postpone your leave for up to six months where the business would be particularly disrupted if the leave were taken at the time requested, unless you are taking the leave immediately after the birth of your child (or placement of your child in your family for adoption), in which case your employer cannot postpone your leave. The leave cannot be postponed beyond the child’s 18th birthday.

But under the default scheme, employers are required to follow a specific procedure if they want to do this: they must first consult with you over the date to which leave should be postponed and give you notice of the postponement in writing (no later than seven days after you gave notice to take parental leave) stating the reason for the postponement; and the new beginning and end dates of the period of leave which the employer will permit you to take. The length of the new period of leave should be the same as your original request.

And your employer cannot postpone a period of leave that has already been postponed once.

An employer that wanted to reduce your leave, or split it up into two or more shorter periods, or postpone a period of leave that had already been postponed once, would have to implement a collective or workforce agreement.

What are my rights and benefits during Parental Leave?

Parental Leave is unpaid. However, when you are on Parental Leave, you should continue to benefit from statutory rights, such as your statutory holiday entitlement. You will continue to accrue your statutory holiday. But if your employer usually gives extra holiday on top of the statutory holiday, you may not accrue these extra days during Parental Leave, it depends on what your employment contract says.

You are also entitled to your notice period if you are being dismissed.

But during Parental Leave, you remain bound by most of your contractual obligations, including your obligation of good faith to your employer or confidentiality. If your contract says you cannot work for another employer, this continues to be the case during Parental Leave.

As your income will change, you may also be entitled to some benefits (like Universal credit or Tax credit) that you are not usually entitled to during the periods of unpaid parental leave.

This advice applies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details

If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.

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The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.