In the UK there are a number of statutory employment rights enjoyed by employees who are also parents. These rights are subject to change during 2015 when a new system of shared parental leave will be introduced. Employees may also be entitled to enhanced rights under the express terms of their contracts of employment. However, their current statutory rights are as follows.

Maternity leave

Subject to complying with the statutory notification procedures, all employed mothers/expectant mothers, irrespective of their length of employment, are entitled to a period of 52 weeks statutory maternity leave.  39 weeks of this period of leave are paid, 6 weeks at 90 per cent of salary and 33 weeks at a flat statutory rate. The remainder is unpaid.

Paternity leave

Fathers (and the partners of mothers) who have been employed for at least 26 weeks are currently entitled to two weeks statutory paternity leave to be taken within 8 weeks of the child’s birth. This leave is paid at a flat statutory rate. They are also entitled to an additional 26 weeks leave if the mother has returned to work before the end of her 52-week maternity leave period. This additional period of leave must be taken between 20 weeks and 12 months after the child’s birth.

Adoption leave

Adoptive parents who have been employed for at least 26 weeks are also entitled to 52 weeks adoption leave, 39 weeks of which are paid at the flat statutory rate. Only one adoptive parent is entitled to adoption leave, the other is entitled to the equivalent of paternity leave.

Parental leave

In addition to maternity/paternity/adoption leave, each parent who has been employed for at least one year is entitled to a period of 18 weeks unpaid parental leave for the purpose of caring for the child. This leave must be taken before the child’s fifth birthday (or 18th birthday if the child is disabled).

Flexible working

The employed parents of children under 17 (or 18 if the child is disabled) with at least 26 weeks’ service are currently entitled to request flexible working. This means that they are entitled to request a change to their working hours, the number of hours they work or their place of work for the purposes of caring for the child. These requests must be dealt with in accordance with a set statutory procedure and may be refused only by reason of the business grounds set out in legislation.

Future changes

As already mentioned, the law on parental leave rights is subject to change in 2015.

It is proposed that the “day one” right to maternity leave and pay will remain as the default. However, the mother may choose to end her maternity leave at any time after the end of the compulsory maternity leave period (currently the first two weeks after the child’s birth) and, subject to certain qualifying conditions, the untaken balance of maternity leave and pay may be taken by the mother and/or father/mother’s partner as shared parental leave and pay.

The existing right to additional paternity leave is to be abolished.

The right to adoption leave is no longer to be subject to a qualifying period of employment and is to be paid at the same rate as maternity pay. Adoptive parents will also be able to take shared parental leave subject to the same qualifying conditions as birth parents.

It is also proposed that parents will have the right to take the 18-week period of unpaid parental leave at any time up to the child’s 18th birthday.

In addition, the right to request flexible working is to be extended to all employees in 2014 and at the same time there will be some changes to the procedure for dealing with such requests.

 

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