Parental Rights at Work: A Brief Overview

As a working parent, you have a number of legal rights when it comes to caring for your children.

These include:

  • Paid and unpaid maternity leave.
  • Paid paternity leave.
  • Unpaid parental leave.
  • The right to request flexible working hours.

These rights are designed to ensure your employment conditions and prospects are not adversely affected.

Importantly, these rights extend to parents in same-sex and opposite-sex relationships.

Maternity Leave

If you're an expectant or new mother, it's vital you're aware of your maternity leave rights, which can vary depending on your unique circumstances.

Maternity leave law is designed to protect your rights in the workplace, ensuring you're justly treated and that your pregnancy and motherhood don't affect your conditions of employment.

In the UK, the maternity leave rights for a new mother are up to 52 weeks' maternity leave, with most employees entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks.

If you find you don't qualify for SMP, Maternity Allowance is available, with the amount you'll receive dependent on your eligibility.

You can take maternity leave regardless of your current employment period, how many hours you work or how much you're paid, but you must meet the maternity leave notification requirements.
Additionally, your maternity leave rights permit you to return to work once your maternity leave is over, with your continuous employment period unaffected by your time away from the workplace.

Although the above are your basic statutory maternity leave rights, your contract may include other particular agreements between you and your employer.

Importantly, various factors can combine to make a maternity leave situation more complex than it need be – which is why you need the employment law specialists in your corner if things go awry.

For expert advice regarding your maternity leave rights, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us for your free initial consultation – we'd be happy to help.

Paternity Leave

For new or soon-to-be fathers, it's important to understand your entitlement when it comes to taking time off after the birth of your child.

Typically, as a male employee you're entitled to Statutory Paternity Leave once your baby is born if you:

  • Have – or if you expect to have – responsibility for the child's upbringing.
  • Are the child's biological father and/or the husband or partner of the mother.

These rights apply to same-sex or civil partnerships.

In addition, you must:

  • Have at least 26 weeks' continuous employment ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
  • Notify your employer of your intention to take paternity leave.
  • Only be taking time off to help the child's mother and/or to care for the baby.

Provided you meet the conditions laid out above, the option to take one or two weeks' paternity leave – a week is defined as a seven-day period – is available.

However, you can't take single days off from work and a two week leave period must be taken consecutively.

Your leave period can start the day the baby is born. Alternatively, it can start days or even weeks after the birth, or a specific date after the first day of the week in which your child is due to be born.

Crucially, most fathers are entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay for their paternity leave. This is normally paid at the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay.

Depending on your eligibility, it may also be possible to extend your paternity leave by up to 26 weeks to care for the baby if the mother, partner, civil partner or co-adopter head back to work.

Although the brief guidelines above may seem straightforward, there are other issues that can compromise your paternity rights.

If you feel like this is the case, please get in touch with a member of the Ashby Cohen team – we'd be pleased to assist you with any paternity issues you may have.

Parental Leave

If you need to take time off work to look after your child or make appropriate arrangements for their wellbeing, you may be eligible for parental leave.

In order to qualify, you must:

  • Have been with the same employer for at least one year.
  • Be an employee and have an employment contract.
  • Be named on the child's birth or adoption certificate, or if you have legal parental responsibility for a child under eighteen.

It's also important to note that most agency and casual staff will not have the right to parental leave.

Crucially, both parents are eligible for parental leave – but for couples who are separated, the parent who no longer lives with the child is only eligible if formal parental responsibility is retained.

Please also note that foster parents do not have rights to parental leave.

If you find you don't meet the criteria for parental leave, but it's imperative you take time off to care for your child, there are other options available, including:

  • Paid holiday.
  • Unpaid time off.
  • Applying for flexible working.

Up until your child's eighteenth birthday, and for each of your children, you can take up to 13 weeks' parental leave.

For adopted children, you're permitted to take 13 weeks' parental leave until the eighteenth anniversary of them coming into your care or until their eighteenth birthday, whichever comes first.

Furthermore, if your child is disabled and receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA), up until their 18th birthday, you have the right to take up to 18 weeks' parental leave.

Vitally, parental leave is an individual right, which means it can't be transferred between parents.

For more information about your parental rights, please get in touch with us – our employment law specialists are on hand to provide expert advice tailored to your unique set of circumstances.

Flexible Working

Any employee may now make a request to work flexibly.

When you hand in such a request, your employer has a legal duty to give your application serious consideration, only rejecting it if there are valid business reasons for doing so.

Flexible working can take the form of the following:

  • Working part-time.
  • Flexi-time (choosing the hours you work).
  • Compressed hours (working agreed hours over fewer days).
  • Job sharing.
  • Working from home.
  • Time off in lieu.
  • Term-time working.

The eligibility criteria for you to make a statutory flexible working request include:

  • Being an employee, as agency workers don't qualify.
  • Being employed continuously for your employer for at least 26 weeks on the date of your request.
  • Not having made any other statutory requests in the past year.

If you find you have the statutory right to apply, you and your employer must follow the appropriate procedure, which can potentially take up to 14 weeks.

Once a flexible working arrangement is put in place, it can be regarded as a permanent change to your employment contract, which may possibly affect your pay.

If you'd like to learn more about flexible working, or any of the parental rights issues covered above, please get in touch with us today – our employment law experts are standing by, and we even offer a free initial telephone consultation.