Navigating Parental Leave: Eligibility, Rights and Shared Leave in the UK

Other than the standard maternity, paternity and adoption leave, employees in the UK have an option of unpaid parental leave. Employees may also be able to opt for Shared Parental Leave (SPL).

If you have questions about parental leave entitlement or are wondering how SPL works, read our guide on parental leave below

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Parental Leave in the UK: How Does it Work?

In the UK, parents of children under 18 have statutory parental leave rights, enabling them to take unpaid leave to look after their child’s welfare. This type of family leave could help parents facilitate time with their children, look at schools and more.

Eligibility for Parental Leave

To be eligible for parental leave, parents must satisfy specific eligibility criteria. The parental leave eligibility criteria that an individual must fulfil include that they:

  • Are classified as an employee
  • Have worked for their employer for a minimum of one year
  • Have parental responsibility for a child under 18 or expect to do so

Emergency Parental Leave in the UK

Employees are legally entitled to time off work for dependants, including children, during an emergency. In such circumstances, the employee can take leave for a reasonable period to deal with the matter. The period of leave will depend on the events at hand since the law omits a definition.

How Much is Parental Leave Entitlement?

For this type of family leave, each parent can take off a maximum of 18 weeks for each of their children until they turn 18. Therefore, if a parent has two children, they can take up to 36 weeks off.

How Much Notice Do I Give Before Taking Parental Leave?

Employees must provide 21 days’ notice before the intended commencement date to take parental leave in the UK. This includes supplying the leave’s start and end dates, which are only required in writing if the employer requests them.

Is There a Limit to Parental Leave?

Although eligible individuals have parental leave rights, they are limited in how they can be used. For example, each parent can only take up to four weeks off per child yearly.

Furthermore, unless the child is on disability living allowance or personal independence payment, the leave must be taken in week blocks. For the parent, this will reflect whatever their typical working week comprises. So, if they typically work two days a week, their weeks’ leave will be the same amount.

Can My Employer Cancel or Refuse My Parental Leave Application?

Employers cannot refuse parental leave in the UK. They can, however, postpone it in certain circumstances. The only time this type of family leave cannot be postponed is when a father/adopter wants to take time off following the birth/placement of their child.

If this isn’t the case, the employer can postpone the leave for up to six months after the requested date. In such circumstances, the employer must:

  • Write to the employee within seven days of their request
  • Explain the need for postponement, outlining the undue disruption their absence would cause
  • Offer appropriate alternative dates, ensuring the employee can take their leave before their child’s 18th birthday

Employee Rights During Parental Leave

When an employee is on parental leave, their rights aren’t usually affected. For example, provided they return to work within four weeks, they have the right to return to their role. Furthermore, the terms and conditions of their employment contract are typically protected.

However, things like pension contributions could be affected, which is generally the case during periods of unpaid leave. What’s more, if the employee takes additional leave, should their job no longer be available, they won’t have the right to return to it but must be offered a similar role.

If you have any questions or want to know more about specific rights during parental leave, contact Redmans Solicitors today.

Do I Get Paid If I Take Parental Leave?

Parental leave in the UK is unpaid unless an employer specifies otherwise. Employers aren’t legally obligated to pay their employees during this period, so many don’t. Despite this, some employers may offer parental leave pay, so it’s best to ask.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

Shared parental leave, also referred to as SPL, enables parents to look after their children more flexibly. It can be utilised within the first year after the birth or adoption of their child and provides parents with the opportunity to share the upbringing responsibility.

Who is Eligible for Shared Parental Leave in the UK?

To be eligible, two parents must share childcare responsibilities from birth. Should both parents want to share it, they must each:

  • Be an employee.
  • Have worked a minimum of 26 weeks continuously for their employer by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due. This is known as the ‘qualifying week’.
  • Remain with their employer before the commencement of their leave.

Supposing only the mother’s partner wanted to utilise such leave, the mother’s partner must meet the above criteria. In addition, the mother must have worked at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the baby’s due date. They must have also earned a minimum of £390 in total across 13 out of those 66 weeks. Should only the mother want to utilise it, the eligibility criteria simply swap around.

SPL When Adopting a Child

To be eligible for shared parental leave in the UK when adopting, both parents must share responsibility for the child from the placement date. Should both parents want to share the leave, they must each:

  • Be an employee.
  • Have worked a minimum of 26 weeks continuously for their employer by the end of the week they’re matched with their child. This is known as the ‘matching week’.
  • Remain with their employer before the commencement of their leave.

If only one parent wants to utilise the leave, the parent wishing to do so must satisfy the above criteria. As for the other parent, they must have worked at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the child is placed with them. They must also have earned a minimum of £390 in total across 13 out of those 66 weeks.

Is Taking Shared Parental Leave Worth It?

Determining whether such leave is worth it will depend on the couple’s circumstances. Many factors could influence this decision, such as:

  • Financial Considerations – During SPL, eligible employees can receive payment. However, this may be lower than other leave entitlements and the parents’ salary. Assessing whether the parents can afford to take the time off is essential.
  • Flexibility – This type of leave could provide parents with more work-life balance. This is because they can share their child’s caring responsibilities.
  • Career Implications – Depending on the time taken, a parent’s career could be affected. For example, employees can return to their jobs if they’ve taken less than 26 weeks of SPL. However, should they take more, while they must be offered a similar job, they may be unable to return to their previous position.
  • Bonding Opportunities – Since this leave enables both parents to share the responsibility of their child’s upbringing, opportunities to bond arise. This could be essential in laying the foundations for strong family connections.

Leave Sharing: What is My Parental Leave Entitlement?

Eligible parents can distribute up to 50 weeks of shared parental leave in the UK. The amount available to them will be 52 weeks less any maternity leave taken. This must be taken in the year following the child’s birth/placement and can be taken in blocks or all at once.

Can Both Parents Take Shared Parental Leave?

Should both parents satisfy the eligibility criteria, they can both take the leave. They then have the decision as to whether they take the leave together or separate and stagger it.

When Does SPL Start?

SPL can commence once the mother has taken her two weeks (or four weeks for factory workers) of compulsory maternity leave. It doesn’t have to begin immediately but must do so within a year of the child’s birth.

Does Shared Parental Leave Affect Maternity Leave and Pay?

The mother can only take shared parental leave in the UK once she’s ended her maternity leave. However, the other partner can still take it, provided the mother has given binding notice to end her maternity leave.

As for maternity pay, this stops when the mother ends her maternity leave. Despite this, if the parents are eligible, they could begin to receive shared parental pay (ShPP).

Can An Employee Take SPL After Paternity Leave?

Employees can take SPL following their paternity leave. They can do so anytime after their partner’s compulsory maternity leave, up to 52 weeks after the birth of their child.

How Much is Shared Parental Pay?

ShPP is paid at the lower of £172.48 a week, or 90% of the parent’s average weekly earnings. This would be paid for a maximum of 39 weeks less any weeks where maternity pay was received. Factoring in the two weeks of compulsory maternity leave, couples would receive this pay for 37 weeks at most.

Am I Eligible for Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)?

For parents to be eligible for shared parental pay, they must satisfy all of the eligibility criteria set out for shared parental leave in the UK, apart from the requirement to be an employee.

In addition, if both parents want to utilise ShPP, they must earn, on average, a minimum of £123 weekly. Should only one parent want to utilise it, only they must satisfy this requirement.

SPL and ShPP When One Parent is Self-Employed

Self-employed individuals are not eligible for SPL or ShPP. However, their partner could be eligible if they aren’t, too, self-employed. Here, the couple must satisfy the above criteria concerning only the employed partner utilising the parental leave rights.

Parental Bereavement Leave: What it is and How to Take it

This form of family leave is a statutory entitlement, permitting parents time off if their child dies before turning 18 or they experience a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. In England, Scotland or Wales, the unfortunate event must have occurred on or after 6 April 2020. For Northern Ireland, it must have happened on or after 6 April 2022.

If eligible, individuals can take up to two weeks of such leave per child from the day they commence employment. The weeks can be taken together or separately and must be taken within 56 weeks of the death/stillbirth. Individuals can learn more about the eligibility requirements for parental bereavement leave from the Government’s website.

To take parental bereavement leave, individuals must provide their employer with the date the death/stillbirth occurred. They must also outline when they want their leave to begin and how long it will last.

If an individual wants to take their leave within eight weeks of the death/stillbirth, they must tell their employer before they would typically start work on the first day of that week. Should they want to take their leave after such time, before the 56-week deadline, they must give their employer a week’s notice.

How Redmans Solicitors Can Help

Redmans Solicitors are employment law specialists and could help solve your query. Our solicitors are here to guide and advise you on a variety of employment issues including unfair dismissal, settlement agreements, pregnancy discrimination and workplace harassment.

Contact us today if you have any further questions or want help with your parental leave rights. Get in touch with us by: