Parental leave

Most workers have some form of parental leave entitlement. Parental leave is the right to be absent from work to take care of your child. There are different types of leave available, and there are other entitlements for parents who take leave. Here's a guide to help you understand the UK's entitlement and eligibility for parental leave.

How does parental leave work?

So, how does parental leave work in the UK? Well, read on!

Entitlement: employee rights in the UK

If you become entitled to parental leave, you can take the leave when your child is a newborn, a few weeks old, or a few months old. If you're working in the UK and have a child who is six years old or younger, you have 14 weeks of parental rest entitlement (it increases to 1 month's leave per year from the age of 6 to 11 years) which must be taken after your baby's birth.

You must accrue at least four days' annual leave within a calendar year before you can use it, and it will count towards your entitlement under parental rest. You can either use part or all of this accrued holiday entitlement depending on how many paid hours worked during the year. If you work more than these four days per year, you can use unpaid leave as parental rest; be aware that this may affect your holiday entitlement for the next five years.



If you're an employee, you can take parental leave. It applies to all UK employees regardless of which country they are legally employed in.

Notice Period

In the UK, there is a statutory notice period (14 days' notice) that must be given before taking parental rest. You need to give your employer 14 days' notice of your leave's proposed start date and purpose.

Statutory paternity and maternity leave and adoption leave

Maternity leave

New mothers will be entitled to take up to 52 weeks' leave. The first 26 weeks are for ordinary maternity leave, while the second one is for additional rest. According to the stipulated guidelines, the leave can start 11 weeks before the expected birth time. Employees can comfortably take their leave two weeks after birth.

Paternity Leave

Paternal employees who just had kids can decide to either take one week or two consecutive weeks of paternity leave depending on their preference and the timelines they have been at the particular job place. It is crucial to understand that the time allocated is the same regardless of the number of children born, say twins. For fathers, the leave isn't allowed to begin before the birth.

Adoption leave and pay

In the UK, the adoption pay is 90% of your salary for the initial six weeks of payment. The other 33 weeks will be paid at £145.18 every week or 90% of your gross average weekly earnings. The latter is often lower than the initial payment. If you are adopting a child as a couple and both are formally employed, you could share the parental rest and pay.

Unpaid Parental Leave UK

While most people know about paid parental rest, they often forget about the unpaid ones. As a parent looking for unpaid parental leave, you will be entitled to 18 weeks of leave for every birth and adopted child. It is applicable up to their 18th birthday.

As an employee, it is crucial to understand the limitations on the unpaid parental rest that every parent can take in a year for their child. Unless the employer argues otherwise, you are eligible for four weeks (each week, seven working days) for every child in one year.

It is also worth noting that parents cannot take leaves as individual days. They are advised to take leaves as whole weeks, for example, one week or two weeks. All this is unless your employer argues otherwise or in the case of a disabled child. You can take the leave on different weeks; it doesn't have to be the four weeks all at once.

Shared parental leave and pay

Shared parental leave (SPL) is a benefit for shared parents who are in paid employment. It offers parents longer than the statutory two years' Maternity/Paternity leave and up to 3 years of parental rest. It offers the following benefits:

  • Both parents can share up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave, which can be either maternity/paternity or adopted child/parental rest. This allows them to decide how they use this time, including if they take all 52 weeks at once or spread their time out over five years. The maximum duration of one period of SPL is 104 weeks across five years.
  • Parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay. This is mostly shareable in the first year after the child is born. Depending on your preferences, you can also use SPL to take leaves in blocks off your work or take it in all at once.

Time off that's not parental leave

While no UK laws oblige employers to grant compassionate leave, most businesses offer employees three to five days of bereavement leave. This will cater to death in the family and any other things that one could be going through. It enables you to restore a healthy work-family balance.

However, you must understand that the leave terms depend on your contract and your employer. Unless you are eligible for parental bereavement pay when your child dies, you might want to work the terms out with your employer. Know what you are getting yourself into.


Parental rest is a legal right that is recognized in every family. In the UK, all parental rest is filled with a qualifying period, formed as weeks on either side of birth, adoption, or adoption placement. The amount of pay that one can receive from their employer is also restricted. The UK's law does not explicitly state where you can take your leave. However, according to the UK courts, both maternity and paternity leave must be taken in the employer's country.

Read more about the different types of leave

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