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What exactly is parental leave?

Maybe not exactly what you think as it turns out…..

Here’s the skinny on parental leave


18 weeks’ unpaid leave for an employee who has parental responsibility for a child up to the child’s 18th birthday (this entitlement is per child).

This leave can be taken at a rate for up to 4 weeks each year and can be used for spending more time with children, to look at new schools, to settle a child into a new childcare arrangement.  It must be pre-booked leave (i.e. not for emergencies).

Employment rights are protected during parental leave.


This right is extended to those employed for more than a year and are named on a birth certificate or have been granted parental responsibility by the courts.

This right is NOT extended to ‘workers’ or those who are self-employed.


Employee’s must give 21 days’ notice of their desired start date for parental leave.

Some things to be aware of

Parental leave entitlement is 18 weeks per child not per job meaning that if an employee has already taken 4 weeks parental leave with a previous employer, they have a maximum of 14 weeks left to take at a rate of 4 weeks per year.  Make sure you find out either from the employee at interview stage or as part of the reference process if your new employee has taken any parental leave.

As an employer you do have a right to delay parental leave it is not commercially viable or would cause serious disruption to the business. However, you must provide an explanation in writing within 7 days of the request and suggest a new start date for the parental leave that is within 6 months of the requested start date.

If you have any concerns about parental leave and how to handle a request from an employee, please get in touch for advice.

The Simple Take is:  Do the right thing by your employee by ensuring their statutory entitlements are met, but also ensuring that a period of leave is commercially viable for your business.

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