Overview of Parental Leave

Last updated: 11 Mar 2020

What is Parental Leave?

Parental Leave was introduced to give parents the right to take a period of time off work to look after their child. Parents can use it to spend more time with children and strike a better balance between their work and family commitments. The leave is unpaid, although in some cases Income Support may be claimed when parental leave is taken (replaced by Universal Credit in some areas of the country).

When can I take Parental Leave?

To be eligible for Parental Leave you must:

  • Be an employee.
  • Have or expect to have parental responsibility for a child under 18
  • Have worked for your employer for at least one year.

Parental Leave is available to parents of all children up to 18 years old, regardless of whether they are adopted or birth children, or whether they are disabled or not.

Each parent can take up to 18 weeks Parental Leave in total for each eligible child as long as they meet the qualifying criteria. If you have 2 children, you can take up to 36 weeks in total.  There are usually restrictions and most parents will not be able to take more than 4 weeks per child per year but check the further rules on how parental leave may be taken.

What happens when I come back to work?

At the end of Parental Leave, you are guaranteed the right to return to the same job if you took four weeks or less of leave. If more than four weeks was taken (or if you took a shorter period of leave but immediately after additional maternity leave), you are entitled to return to the same job or if that is not reasonably practicable, to a similar job which has the same or better status terms and conditions as your old job.

What if my employer refuses to let me go on Parental Leave?

Your employer cannot refuse to let you go on Parental Leave but they can postpone your leave for up to six months in certain conditions.

You cannot “be punished” because you have taken or have tried to take parental leave. You are legally protected from dismissal, detrimental treatment and victimisation for taking Parental Leave. If you believe you have a claim for detrimental treatment, the first step would be to explain your concern to your employer (if necessary, by a written grievance) before considering making a claim in the employment tribunal.

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.