Schools out for summer: Can staff ask employers for extra time off to look after children?

“No more pencils no more books,
No more teacher's dirty looks yeah,
Well we got no class,
And we got no principals,
And we got no innocence,
We can't even think of a word that rhymes,
School's out for summer” – Alice Cooper

So what is parental leave?

Parental leave allows employees to take time off work to look after a child. This leave is available for each child up to their 18th birthdays.  It is not an increased in annual leave as the time off is normally unpaid. 

Employees are entitled to take up to eighteen weeks of parental leave per child.

An employee may wish to take parental leave to:

  • stay with a child who is in hospital.
  • spend more time with a child (over summer holidays).
  • make school/childcare arrangements and to help them settle in.

...and Pay during parental leave?

Parental leave is usually unpaid.

An employer can pay staff taking parental leave if they choose to but there is no legal obligation on them to do so. If an employer does pay for parental leave this should be clearly set out in the terms and conditions of employment.  Employers should have a policy in place  so each employee is treated equally.  Click here to see out policy drafting services.  

All contractual terms and conditions other than remuneration should continue throughout a period of parental leave.

Who can take parental leave?

In order to qualify for parental leave an individual must be an employee and have 12 months continuous employment with the employer. 

The employee must also have a child under the age of 18 and:

  • be named on the child's birth certificate
  • be named on the child's adoption certificate
  • have legal parental responsibility for the child (such as a stepparent)

When can parental leave be taken?

The leave can start once the child is born or adopted, or as soon as the employee has completed twelve months service, whichever is later.

At least 21 days' notice must be given in writing by the employee to their employer. If an employee wants to take parental leave straight after the birth or adoption of a child they should give 21 days' notice before the expected week of childbirth or placement.

Parental leave should usually be taken in blocks of a week unless agreed otherwise with the employer. If the child is disabled, parental leave can be taken in days rather than weeks.

Up to 4 weeks can be taken in each year. 

Employer's right to postpone parental leave

If a period of parental leave is going to disrupt the business, the employer has the option of postponing the leave for up to six months after the original requested start date. If an employer is going to postpone the leave they must write to the employee within seven days of receiving their request stating why the leave is being postponed and giving new dates for the leave to be taken.

An employer is prevented form postponing parental eave  immediately following a birth or adoption.

Unfair treatment for taking parental leave

An employee has the right not to be treated unfavourably or to be dismissed because they are taking, or are seeking to take, parental leave.

If an employee feels they are being treated unfavourably, they should first consider raising the issue informally. Some issues can be resolved quickly through a conversation with a line manager or other appropriate person within the business.

If an informal approach does not work an employee has the option of raising a formal grievance.

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