Fact Sheet – Parental Leave


An employee, who fulfils the criteria below and has completed one year’s continuous employment with their employer, is entitled to take up to 18 weeks* unpaid parental leave for each child born or adopted. An employee will remain employed while on parental leave and some terms of the employment contract, such as contractual notice and redundancy terms, still apply.


The Employee must:

  • Be named on the child’s birth certificate, or
  • Be named on the child’s adoption certificate, and
  • Have legal parental responsibility for a child under five (under 18 if the child is disabled)
  • If the Employee does not live with the child, they have the right to parental leave if they keep formal parental responsibility for the child.

*increased from 13 weeks on 8th March 2013

Applying for Parental leave

A request should be made by the employee to the employer giving 21 days’ notice of the intended start date of the parental leave.    To take parental leave straight after the birth or adoption of a child, the employee should give notice 21 days before the beginning of the expected week of childbirth or placement or where this is not be possible,  as soon as possible. The employer may ask for this request to be made in writing.

As long as the employee qualifies for parental leave and gives the employer the correct notice the request should be granted.  However, an employer can postpone parental leave if it has  a good business reason for doing so, for example seasonal production, another member of staff is off or the staff absence would harm the business. Parental leave can be postponed for up to 6 months but cannot be postponed so that the leave ends after the child’s fifth birthday or the age of 18 in the case of disabled children.

Taking Parental leave

The leave can be taken at any time from the date of birth or adoption up to the child’s fifth birthday or, in the case of adoption, until five years after placement. In the case of a child with disabilities, the leave can be taken up to the child’s 18th birthday.  If the employee has not completed 1 year’s continuous employment by the date of birth or placement for adoption, the leave can start once the years’ service has been completed.

The employee cannot take off more than four week parental leave during a year and it should be taken in blocks of a week or multiples of a week, not as “odd” days off.

Rights on changing employer

If an employee gets a new job they can carry over the untaken parental leave, but cannot use it until they have been with the new employer for a year.

Planned changes – Flexible parental leave

The Government is expected to bring in legislation that will introduce changes to parental leave in 2015.   Under a new system of flexible parental leave, parents will be able to choose how they share care of their child in the first year after birth. Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave, and will still have to take at least the initial two weeks of leave following the birth as a recovery period, however, working parents will be able to opt to share the remaining leave thereafter.

For more information about parental leave or any other employent law issue contact Karen Bulfin at Bulfin & Co on 0208 866 0044 or by email: karen@bulfin.co.uk