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Employers Guide To Parental Leave

Published: Thursday 21st November 2019

Parenthood is one of the biggest life-changing events someone may experience, and it inevitably brings new demands on their time. By law, parents are eligible to take time off work to look after their children and as an employer, you’ll no doubt find yourself faced with managing parental leave within your business at some stage. So, if you need to dust off your policies and get to grips with the legislation, you have to comply with, we’ve compiled a complete guide for employers.

family, parenthood and people concept

Types of Parental Leave

From maternity and paternity leave and pay, shared parental leave and adoptive parent entitlements, to antenatal care, flexible working requests and notification periods – there’s a lot employers have got to keep up with. However, there are also certain conditions employees have to meet in order to qualify. Let’s take a look at the different types of parental leaves below.

Ordinary Parental Leave

Ordinary parental leave is unpaid leave that parents can take for the purpose of caring for a child. Employees, who qualify, can take up to 18 weeks’ ordinary parental leave per child. Employers can and should agree rules for the timing and notice requirements.  It is also advisable that these policies are clear to the workforce in advance. Parental leave is usually unpaid, however, it is up to each employer’s discretion to pay staff taking parental leave, if they choose too. 

Young pregnant business woman using a laptop at the office

Maternity leave

There are two parts to maternity leave, ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave. Ordinary maternity leave always comes first. Both last for 26 weeks, so in total, an employee is eligible to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave. There’s no minimum length of service requirement, so pregnant employees qualify for maternity leave regardless of how long they’ve been working at a company. Employers should always check employees’ eligibility for both leave and pay and make sure they meet the conditions.

Paternity leave

All qualifying employees are eligible for either one or two weeks of paternity leave. Paternity leave shouldn’t usually start before the baby is born, but it can be mutually arranged to begin a few days before the baby is due to arrive. In terms of entitlement, qualifying employees are those who:

  • will be responsible for bringing up the baby
  • are the child’s biological father, the mother’s husband or partner
  • have worked continuously for their employer for 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the baby is due

Businessman looking after newborn baby at home and teleworking

Shared parental leave

Parents can take up to a maximum of 50 weeks as SPL, and a maximum of 37 weeks of Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). You can take SPL at a different time from your partner/other parent, or at the same time. For example, a woman can be on maternity leave and her partner can be on shared parental leave at the same time.

Working at best practice

Best practice employers incorporate parental leave policies that are flexible and tailored to the specific needs of the business and its employees. Employers with best practice in place go beyond their minimum legal obligations, aspiring to implement initiatives that benefit not only the business but also the employees. As a result, this helps and encourages employees to manage their transition out of and back into work by providing clarity around employment rights and expectations. In doing so, employers ensure that valuable employees are attracted, retained and feel valued. Best practice parental leave policies recognise the importance of family-friendly policies by helping members of staff achieve work-life balance, enhancing employee commitment and engagement in return.

Male boss congratulating female employee handshaking and greeting her on special occasion

Why work at best practice?

The benefits of a best practice parental leave policy can be enjoyed at all companies. Businesses offering flexible working initiatives, including good parental leave policies, can benefit from lower staff turnover, which results in lower recruitment and training costs as well as from recognition as an employer of choice. Such companies demonstrate greater employee commitment and satisfaction, easier attraction of new employees and smoother transitions for employees between work and leave.

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