Parental leave is planned unpaid time off to care for you child. It is an extra right that parents have but few people know about it.

Who can take parental leave?

You can only take parental leave if you are an employee. This means you need to have a contract of employment. If you are a self-employed consultant or a worker, you do not have a legal right to take parental leave.

You also need to have or expect to have (if you are wanting to take leave for a child who has not yet been born or placed with you if you are adopting) to have responsibility for the child. This is called “parental responsibility”.

How long do I need to have been employed before I can take parental leave?

You must have been employed by your employer for at least a year before they can take parental leave.

What can I take the time off for?

parental leave

The time off is to care for the child. This is quite broad and covers simply spending time with you child. It can also be useful when your child is starting school, especially if they only spend a few hours a day there during the first week or so. In addition, it could be used when your child is taking exams and needs more support.

Does the right end after my child reaches a certain age?

You have the right to take parental leave up to your child’s 18th birthday.

How much parental leave do I get?

You have the right to 18 weeks’ parental leave for each of your children up until they are 18. This transfers between employers. However, you need to have been employed by each employer for a year before you can take parental leave with them.


Alfie has been employed by his local NHS Trust for 3 years. During this time he takes 2 weeks’ parental leave. He then leaves to go and work at a GP surgery. He still has 16 weeks of is parental leave entitlement left. However, he must work at the GP surgery for a year before he can take any more parental leave.

If Alfie leaves the GP surgery within a year, he must then work for his new employer for a year, before he can take parental leave with them.

Can I take it all in one go?

No. You can take up to 4 weeks of parental leave each year.

Parental leave must also be taken in blocks of a week at a time, unless your child is disabled. If your child is disabled, you can take parental leave as single days.

If your working hours do not change each week, a “week’s leave” is the number of hours you would normally work in a week. If your working hours do change each week, a week’s leave is the total number of hours you normally work in a year, divided by 52.


Nita works 4 days a week, every week. A week’s leave for Nita will be 4 days.

Joe helps out at a local charity shop working a few hours a week. He normally works 156 hours a year. A week’s leave for Joe will be 3 hours (156 hours divided by 52).

Is it paid?

No. Your employer does not have to pay you when you take parental leave.

How do I take parental leave?

You need to ask your employer at least 21 days before you want your leave to start. You should tell your employer when you want your leave to start and end. This should be done in writing.

My child has an ear infection. Can I use parental leave to look after her?

No. As you need to give your employer at least 21 days’ notice, parental leave cannot be used to look after a child who unexpectedly falls ill or is injured. However, you would have the right to take time off to make arrangements for your child to be looked after (see Your right to time off to care for dependants).

If a child has an operation planned for the future, you will be able to ask for parental leave for this so long as you give the correct notice.

Can my employer refuse my request for parental leave?

Your employer can refuse but only if it would be very disruptive to your employer’s business (such as if you asked to take parental leave at their busiest time).

Your employer must let you know within 7 days that they are refusing your request. They must also let you have the same time off within 6 months of when you wanted it to start.

Will it effect my job if I take parental leave?

If you take up to 4 weeks off, you are entitled to return to the same job and on the same terms.

You are also protected from your employer treating you unfairly for taking parental leave. This means you would have a right to bring a claim in a tribunal if your employer did so. For example, if you are not allowed to do a training course or are denied a bonus, pay rise or a promotion because you took parental leave, you would have a claim. These claims should be brought within 3 months subject to ACAS Early Conciliation.

Contact us

With an honest and ethical approach to law, at Truth Legal you will have access to our specialist team of lawyers to help you with all your employment law matters. Our Head of Employment Law is Navya Shekhar, an employment law solicitor with over 10 years’ experience.

If you think you have been treated unfairly due to taking parental leave – call us on 01423 788538 or contact us here.

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