Parental Leave Rights

Parental leave offers parents who meet the eligibility criteria the right to take unpaid time off work to look after their child or make arrangements for their welfare.

The criteria that must be met in order for parents to have the right to take parental leave are that they must:

  • have been employed by you for at least a year
  • be an 'employee', with a contract of employment (most agency and casual staff don't have the right to parental leave)
  • be a parent named on the child's birth certificate or be named on the child's adoption certificate or have legal parental responsibility for a child under 5 (18 if disabled)

Both parents may take up to a total of 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave for each of child up until their 18th birthday. If their child is adopted, they can take a total of up to 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave until the 18th anniversary of their placement or until their 18th birthday, whichever comes first.  If your employee is separated, the parent who no longer lives with the children only has the right to unpaid parental leave if they retain formal parental responsibility for the children. Foster parents do not have rights to unpaid parental leave.

If your employee does not qualify for parental leave but needs time off to care for their child, you could offer them the options of:

  • taking paid holiday
  • taking unpaid time off
  • applying for flexible working

Unpaid parental leave is an individual right to each child and it cannot be transferred between parents, but can be carried over between different jobs as the leave extends over their child's life.

Employees are limited to taking 4 weeks unpaid parental leave a year in blocks of one week.  It is not usually possible to take individual days.  Your employee will need to give you 21 days notice of their intention to take unpaid parental leave.

Your employee's employment rights are preserved during any period of unpaid parental leave.

If you would like more detailed information about parental leave, Ashby Cohen can help you. We specialise in employment law cases, and our years of experience as employment lawyers make us especially qualified to assist you with any parental leave issues you may have. contact us for an initial free telephone consultation.

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