Written by: Shani Fowler
We all usually know our holiday entitlement at work and can’t wait to get our holidays booked, but sometimes we use our holiday leave for domestic arrangements, but would we be better saving our holiday entitlement for just that, and use the right to parental leave for other things? Not everyone understands their rights with regard to parental leave so let’s have a look at exactly what this.
Qualifying for parental leave
Service counts! – An employee that has completed a year’s service with their employer can qualify for eighteen weeks for each child born or any adopted children placed with them. This may sound good and it is, but the leave is unpaid. This leave can start as soon as a child is placed for adoption or is born or after a year’s service has been completed, whichever is later.
When can I take this leave?
This leave can take place during any time up to the child’s fifth birthday or five years after adoption placement. If you have a child with disabilities, the leave is still eighteen weeks but can be taken up until the child’s eighteenth birthday.
An employee must give their employers a minimum of twenty one days notice before the commencement of the period of parental leave they intend to take. In circumstances where this is not possible, maybe in connection with an unexpected event or emergency, notice must be given as soon as is possible.
Use in blocks
Parental leave does not have to be taken all at once but should be used in week blocks as opposed to using it for “odd days” here and there, unless the child is disabled or the employer agrees to you using it that way.
Are you still employed whilst on parental leave?
Yes you are still employed on your contract of employment and as such some of the terms of your employment remain applicable such as contractual notice and redundancy notice.
Taking parental leave
Unless your child is disabled, your rights apply up to the fifth birthday and you must be named on the birth certificate or adoption certificate of the child and or have legal parental responsibility of the child.
Parental leave should only be taken in connection with the welfare of a child, for example the hospitalisation of your child, settling children in school or spending time with your child.
Can my employer refuse my parental leave?
An employer can postpone the leave only if they can show good reason that it could detrimental to their business such as seasonal production or they can show that the absence of the employee could harm the business. This postponement could then last for 6 months but must not mean that it over runs the time allowed to be taken up to the child’s fifth birthday.
If you are unsure of your full rights in connection with parental leave in your particular circumstances, or any other employment queries you can contact ACAS. They have a helpful website (www.acas.org.uk) and also a helpline which offers free, impartial advice and guidance in connection with specific employment relations issues. Their number is 0300 123 1100. Acas also run practical training to equip employers, managers and supervisors with the necessary skills to deal with employment related issues. This training benefits workers and employers alike.