Your flexible working and parental rights
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Most employees who are parents (of underage children) or carers are legally entitled to have a request for flexible working seriously considered. A request for flexible working might include a change to flexitime, part-time, working from home or some other arrangement.
An employer can only refuse the request for limited business reasons: for example, because the proposed flexible working arrangements would be too expensive or harm business performance. Employers that do not agree to a request for flexible working must ensure they follow the right procedures and give a valid reason.
Maternity leave and maternity pay
All pregnant employees are entitled to paid time-off for ante-natal care and can take up to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave. Maternity leave can begin any time from 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. New mothers must take a minimum of two weeks leave after the birth of a child (or four weeks if the mother works in a factory).
An employee who is expecting a baby has their employment rights (other than remuneration) protected throughout maternity leave. After maternity leave, mothers are generally entitled to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions.
Most pregnant employees will qualify for statutory maternity pay (SMP) during up to 39 weeks of maternity leave, unless they have only worked for a short time or have very low earnings.
Paternity leave, paternity pay and adoption leave
Most employees who are new fathers qualify for paternity leave when their baby is born. The employee’s employment rights (other than remuneration) are protected during paternity leave.
New fathers also qualify for statutory paternity pay (SPP) unless they have only been employed with an organisation for a short time or have very low earnings.
An employee who adopts a child qualifies for adoption leave and adoption pay on similar grounds to those for maternity leave and maternity pay. Where a couple adopts a child, only one can claim adoption leave and pay. The other can claim paternity leave and paternity pay, regardless of gender, provided he or she qualifies.
In addition to statutory entitlements to maternity, paternity and adoption leave, parents and carers are also entitled to take unpaid parental leave or care leave. Parents with young or disabled children have certain further rights to unpaid leave. For example, employees can take reasonable unpaid time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant. This includes the right to bereavement leave for a dependant’s funeral.
Paid or unpaid leave
Employees are also entitled to paid or unpaid leave for a variety of activities. For example, employees are allowed unpaid time off for various public service activities such as acting as a magistrate. If you are made redundant, you are allowed time off for job-seeking.
Your employer will have a clear policy on sick leave, time off related to a worker’s disability, and any discretionary leave allowed, as well as the procedures employees must follow to request leave.
If you need specific advice about your parental rights in the workplace or are concerned about requesting a flexible working pattern, requiring time off or holiday entitlements, our employment law team can provide you with specific details concerning your personal situation.