Mother and Baby

What Is Parental Leave And When Are You Allowed To Take It?

Section: Work & maternity

You’re just about keeping a-breast (sorry couldn’t resist) of the work/life/me-time merge when your baby gets sick? Are you allowed to take time off work to look after her? And how do you go about asking for it if so. We’ve unravelled the need-to-know deal on parental leave.

Who’s entitled to it?

Parents of children under five who have been employed for one year continuously.

How much time can I take?

Thirteen weeks leave is permitted for each child (18 weeks for parents of disabled children).

What’s the catch?

It’s unpaid. The good news is you also have the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off work to deal with unexpected or sudden emergencies, like taking your baby to the doctor, and making any necessary long-term arrangements like a change in childcare.

Your right to ‘unpaid time off for dependants’ applies regardless how long you have worked at a company. This would count if your baby falls ill or has an accident and you need to be with her, or if there is a breakdown of care arrangements.

Does my baby have to be sick for me to be able to take it?

Nope! You can use it to spend more time with your child or to create a better work/life balance. Other thing like looking at new schools, settling children into new childcare arrangements and spending more time with family eg visiting grandparents also count.

Sadly, your employer is unlikely to include needing to lie on a sunlounger for a week as a parental emergency. Spoilsport or what?

What else?

Employment rights, like the right to pay, holidays and returning to a job, are protected during parental leave. You cannot be treated less favourably by your employer because you have taken or have tried to take parental leave.

You can’t take off more than four weeks during a year for each qualifying child

You are legally protected from dismissal, detrimental treatment and victimization for taking parental leave.

Do I have to take it in one big chunk?

Parental leave should be taken in blocks of a week or multiples of a week, and should not be taken as 'odd' days off, unless the employer agrees otherwise or the child is disabled.

You can’t take off more than four weeks during a year for each qualifying child. Leave may be taken straight after the birth or adoption or following a period of maternity leave.

How do I ask for it?

Usually, you’ll need to give at least 21 days notice before your intended start date. In some cases you’ll also have to write a letter to your employer giving notice of the proposed parental leave. And here’s a bit of advice for free – the sooner you can ask for it, the better because it will give your employer time to plan for your cover.


Related Content

Related content: