If you employ people, it’s likely that you will need to negotiate parental leave at some point. Our parental leave policy template, which also applies to family emergencies, can help to ensure that you stay on the right side of the law.
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What is parental leave and who is entitled to it?
Parental leave is leave given to look after the welfare of a child who is either born or adopted. It is generally unpaid, and parental leave can be taken for each child at any point up until their 18th birthday.
There are a range of reasons why parents might take parental leave, including: to spend more time with their children; to spend more time with family; to investigate schools; and to settle a child into childcare arrangements.
During parental leave, most employees’ employment rights, other than pay, remain protected.
Parental leave is only available to employees who have completed at least one year’s continuous employment with the company.
How do employees take time off for parental leave?
Parents are entitled to up to 18 weeks’ parental leave for each child, whether born or adopted, up to their 18th birthday.
There are two ways to organise a parental leave scheme - the default statutory scheme or a non-statutory scheme. If you want to use a non-statutory scheme, you’ll need to reach an individual contractual agreement with the employee.
If you wish to implement a scheme that is in any way less favourable to the employee than the default scheme, it can only be by collective or workforce agreement – and even then certain key elements must be provided.
Under the default scheme, employees may only take four weeks’ leave in every year, but individual employers may choose to offer more than this in their contracts.
Parental leave must be taken as whole weeks, unless otherwise specified. You may change our parental leave policy template to offer employees the opportunity to take their time off in shorter blocks. If the employee’s child is awarded Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, leave may be taken in blocks or multiples of one day.
Do employees have to give notice when taking parental leave?
In general, employees must give at least 21 days’ notice of their intended parental leave. Notice must be given at least 21 days before the expected date of birth or adoption if the leave is to begin immediately afterwards.
There are details that employees must provide when applying for leave according to our parental leave policy template, including:
- The name of the child in question, their date of birth, and the employee’s relationship to them
- A birth or adoption certificate, or similar other reasonable documentation
- Details of any periods of parental leave the employee has taken at previous employers
What rights do employees have when returning from parental leave?
Generally, employment rights are protected during periods of parental leave. This means that, normally, after the leave, the employee has the right to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions.
If the same job is not available, they must be able to return to another suitable and appropriate job. Other employment rights also continue, for example, statutory annual leave accrues during parental leave, though contractual leave might not apply.
Statutory employment benefits also continue, but you may decide to suspend extra contractual benefits at your discretion. This should be communicated to the employee in question.
What about family emergencies?
Separate from parental leave, employees also have a statutory right to unpaid leave for family emergencies. This might include:
- A dependant falling ill
- To make long-term care arrangements for a dependant
- To deal with the death of a dependant, for example funeral arrangements
In the event of a family emergency occurring outside work hours, the employee is required to give notice to their line manager at the earliest possible opportunity, and at least as close as possible to their normal working start time.
For emergencies occurring while the employee is working, they must contact their line manager immediately to seek approval for time off.
Our policy template requires employees to report to their line manager on a daily basis during periods of leave for family emergencies.
Parental leave policy template - free Word document for download
If you would like to make changes and don’t have Adobe Acrobat, you can also download our parental leave template in Word format.
This document has been produced by Clarkslegal so we can’t take responsibility for its contents. We’d recommend you take professional advice before making any important decisions based on its contents.