Rights to family leave and pay for employees

 
The summary below covers statutory rights only. Many companies provide more generous contractual terms.

Maternity leave

Who is entitled? the woman giving birth to the baby

Leave:
• A woman must take the first two weeks off following the birth of the baby (4 weeks if they work in a factory)
• A woman is entitled to 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave. If she returns to work during this period she will be entitled to return to exactly the same job she had before she took maternity leave.
• A woman can then take a further 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave. If she takes more than 26 weeks leave she has the right to return to the same job unless it is no longer available, in which case she must be given a similar job with the same pay and conditions.

Pay:
 For the first 6 weeks of maternity leave a woman is entitled to 90% of her average weekly earnings before tax
• For the following 33 weeks she is entitled to statutory maternity pay, which is currently £138.18 per week, or 90% of average weekly earnings if this is lower

Paternity

Who is entitled? The spouse, civil partner or partner of the mother giving birth or primary adopter, who will share responsibility for the child’s upbringing

Leave: 
• Two consecutive weeks of Ordinary Paternity Leave during the 56 days following the child’s birth
• If the birth mother or primary adopter has returned from maternity leave or adoption leave before their entitlement ends Additional Paternity Leave can be taken for the rest of the entitlement to leave. 

For babies born on or after 5 April 2015 Additional Paternity Leave will be replaced with the system of Shared Parental Leave

Pay:
• During Ordinary Paternity Leave: 90% of average weekly earnings before tax, or statutory paternity pay, whichever is lower.
• During Additional Paternity Leave: at the same rate as Ordinary Paternity Leave, but only for the remainder of the mother/primary adopter’s period of statutory maternity/adoption pay which they have not used.

For babies born on or after 5 April 2015 Additional Paternity Pay will be replaced with the system of Shared Parental Leave.

Shared parental leave

In relation to children born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015, employees who are parents (whether by birth, adoption or surrogacy) will be able to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) during the first year of the child’s life, or the first year after their placement for adoption. Additional Paternity Leave and Pay will be abolished from 5 April 2015.

If the mother or primary adopter returns to work before the end of their period of statutory maternity or adoption leave has finished, the couple can share the remaining leave between them. The remaining leave can be taken in 3 separate blocks, allowing the mother to return to work for a period and then return to maternity leave for a further period. Similarly, maternity or adoption pay can be shared between the couple if the mother or primary adopter returns to work before their entitlement to pay has ended.

Adoption

Who is entitled? A person who has had a child placed for adoption with them. If a couple are adopting they must decide which one of them will elect to take adoption leave (the ‘primary adopter’); the other will normally be entitled to paternity leave.

Leave:
• 52 weeks statutory adoption leave

Pay:
• Statutory adoption pay is payable for 39 weeks, at the statutory rate or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

Surrogacy

At present, couples who become parents via a surrogacy arrangement do not have the right to maternity, paternity or adoption leave or pay. The only option open to them is to take unpaid parental leave. Employees could discuss with their employer whether any company policies such as enhanced adoption leave could be granted to them on a discretionary basis.

Adoption and Surrogacy (from 5 April 2015)

From 5 April 2015 parents who are adopting a child and parents who apply for a parental order in relation to a child born under a surrogacy agreement will be entitled to the same leave and pay, as follows:

Who is entitled? Individuals or couples or who have a baby placed for adoption with them, and couples who apply for a parental order in relation to a child born to a surrogate. An application for a parental order must be made by two people, who are either married, in a civil partnership or an ‘enduring family relationship’. At least one of the applicants must be biologically related to the child. 

Leave:
• 52 weeks statutory adoption leave
• If the primary adopter returns to work before the end of their adoption leave entitlement, the remaining period of adoption leave can be shared between the two adopting parents in accordance with the rules on Shared Parental Leave

Pay: 
• For the first 6 weeks of adoption leave the primary adopter is entitled to 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax
• For the following 33 weeks they are entitled to statutory adoption pay, or 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax, whichever is lower
• If the person who has elected to take statutory adoption pay returns to work before the end of their adoption pay entitlement, the remaining period of adoption pay can be shared between the two adopting parents in accordance with the rules on Shared Parental Pay

Parental Leave

In addition to leave at the time of a child’s birth or adoption, birth parents, adoptive parents and those who have parental responsibility for children are entitled to unpaid leave to care for their child at any time before the child’s 5th birthday (or their 18th birthday if the child is entitled to disability living allowance). The entitlement is to 18 weeks leave to be taken in weekly blocks of leave. This applies to each child, so for example an employee with two children would be entitled to 36 weeks parental leave per year.

Like maternity, paternity and adoption leave, notice must be given to take parental leave, so it is not suitable for use in an emergency. In such a case the right to unpaid time off for dependants should be used.

Time off for dependants

Employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to take necessary action to deal with emergencies affecting their dependants, including children, parents and spouses. Emergency situations include illness, an unexpected breakdown in childcare arrangements or an unexpected incident at a child’s school. The employee must notify the employer as soon as reasonably practicable of the reason for their absence and when they expect to return.

Flexible working

From 30 June 2014, an employee with 26 weeks continuous service can make a written request to change to the hours they work, the times they are required to work or their place of work i.e. working from home. The employer must deal with the request in a reasonable manner and can only refuse the request on one of 8 statutory grounds, such as the cost burden of making changes or inability to reorganise work amongst other staff.

Time off for ante-natal appointments

Pregnant women are entitled to paid time off to attend ante-natal appointments. As of 1st October 2014, spouses, civil partners and partners of pregnant women and fathers of expected children are entitled to unpaid time off to accompany a pregnant woman to an ante-natal appointment. This is limited to two occasions of no more than 6 and a half hours, notice of which must be given to the employer in advance.  

Information on this page has been provided by Bircham Dyson Bell LLP 


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