Workers in the UK are entitled to a wide range of benefits, extending beyond paid annual holidays to encompass various forms of leave. One of these options is unpaid parental leave. In this article, we’ll study this scheme in detail and examine who is eligible, how to apply, and the length of the leave.
- What Is Unpaid Parental Leave?
- How Much Time Off Work Can You Take?
- Who Is Entitled To Unpaid Parental Leave?
- Notice Requirement and Employment Rights
- Looking After the Welfare of Your Child
What Is Unpaid Parental Leave?
In the UK, the law allows individuals to take unpaid leave to care for or address the well-being of their children. Throughout this period, although their employment is safeguarded, their wages are not paid. Applicable to both mothers and fathers, unpaid parental leave serves as an option for those who want:
- To spend more time with their child
- To request additional time off after maternity or paternity leave
- To find suitable schools for their child
- To help their child settle into a childcare facility
How Much Time Off Work Can You Take?
A parent can take a maximum of 4 weeks off per year for each child up to a maximum of 18 weeks. The leave must be taken in full-week increments rather than single days, such as one or two weeks at a stretch. Unpaid parental leave can only be requested until the child turns 18.
Exceptions could apply with the employer’s consent or if the child suffers from any form of disability.
Who Is Entitled To Unpaid Parental Leave?
An employee will qualify if their child is less than 18 years of age and all the following apply:
- Employed by the company for more than 12 months
- Named in the birth or adoption certificate as the parent or an individual with parental responsibility for a child. Some companies have a policy that extends the scheme to other groups, for example, foster parents or grandparents.
- Not self-employed, a gig worker, an agency worker, or a contractor
An employer can request evidence that proves the employee meets the criteria (for instance, a birth certificate).
Full-Time and Part-Time Employees
Unpaid parental leave is applicable to both full-time and part-time employees and is calculated pro rata. For example, someone working part-time 2 days a week can take 2 days leave for the week. On the other hand, if employees work 5 days a week, Monday to Friday, they can take the whole 5 days.
Notice Requirement and Employment Rights
You must notify the employer of your intention to take unpaid parental leave. The notice period is usually 21 days. Written notice is not required unless stated by the employer.
While an individual is on unpaid parental leave, their employment rights are protected. It means they do not lose the right to return to work, take annual leave, or receive paternity pay, for example.
Job Commitment Issues
Some people are afraid to request unpaid parental leave because the employer may question their commitment to the job. It is especially the case with smaller companies with fewer employees. But unpaid parental leave is part of an employee’s rights, and companies need to consider these factors while running their business. No unfair treatment or discrimination is permitted, and no one should be barred from promotion or training opportunities due to taking unpaid parental leave.
What If It’s Not Possible To Reach an Agreement with the Employer?
The employer will need to have a significant reason to refuse leave. For example, granting the leave can cause considerable disruption to their business.
The vast majority of companies are aware of the law and will do their best to accommodate. Employees who cannot reach an agreement and feel victimised can obtain advice from their Trade Union, the Human Resources Department, or the Citizens Advice Bureau. In particular, the Trade Union will liaise with the company to help reach an amicable conclusion.
Extending the Unpaid Parental Leave
The maximum time off available is 4 weeks per child but extending the leave is possible with the employer’s agreement. Generally, bigger companies that offer excellent benefits packages are more likely to agree to such requests.
Looking After the Welfare of Your Child
Children are the most important thing in the life of a parent. Given children’s wide range of needs, parents often must take time off work to look after their welfare. Luckily in the UK, unpaid parental leave is available to all employed mothers and fathers.
We want to thank you for reading this article and hope you found it of use.