Parental leave

Parental leave was introduced in the UK to give mothers and fathers of young or disabled children the right to take a period of time off work to look after their child. 

Parental leave is unpaid and is offered to parents as follows:

  • For each child – 18 weeks up to their 5th birthday
  • For each adopted child – 18 weeks up to their 18th birthday, or their 5th birthday (whichever comes soonest)
  • For each disabled child who qualifies for Disability Living Allowance – 18 weeks up to their 18th birthday

Parental leave can be taken for lots of reasons, including to allow you to spend more time with your child in their early years.  You could also use the time to settle your child into new childcare arrangements or to look at new schools for your child.  And if your child needs to stay in hospital, parental leave can allow you time off work to stay with them.

Some important points about parental leave

The amount of parental leave you are able to take in any one year is limited to four weeks, unless your employer agrees to you taking more.  A ‘week’ equals the length of time you would normally work in a week.

You are able to carry over unused parental leave if you move jobs, as the leave is attached to the child not to your job. 

And the right to parental leave applies to employees not children – so, if you and your partner are both employees who have worked for your employers for at least a year, you should both be entitled to parental leave for the same child.

You can take parental leave immediately after your maternity, paternity or adoption leave providing you give the correct notice.

UK law provides a basic right to maternity leave which some employers improve upon.

For more information

Acas – parental leave

Working families

WorkSmart (TUC)