When an employee knows that they are likely to have a child or alternatively needs time to care for that child, there are plenty of options open to them. However, some accrue pay and some do not. Set out below are the various different options and some of the entitlements attached to these. It’s worth noting that while this article doesn’t cover enhanced entitlements, some employers do have enhanced schemes.
Maternity leave allows an employee who is pregnant to take a period of leave and an entitlement to statutory maternity pay. The maternity pay does have eligibility criteria but this generally dovetails in with the employee being pregnant when they started employment and earning a certain level of income. The right to leave is a year in total formed of ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave. The pay for maternity leave would be 90% of salary for six weeks and then statutory maternity pay amount of £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. However, you can transfer this leave to a co-parent by using shared parental leave.
Shared parental leave
The employee who is pregnant with a child must take a minimum of two weeks leave but then can transfer the remaining leave to a co-parent. There are numerous eligibility requirements and notification of requirements which are relatively complex. However, if an employee can navigate this, the leave and pay entitlement is transferred to the co-parent and becomes shared parental leave and shared parental pay.
The father or the co-parent of an individual can take paternity leave. This is two weeks of paid leave at a rate of £172.48 per week. This leave needs to be taken in blocks of a week and must be taken by the time the child is 56 days old.
This form of leave is for those who are adopting a child and is triggered by the notification of placement of a child. This is normally a letter from the adoption agency as proof. Most of the entitlements are very similar to that of maternity leave and you can transfer adoption leave into shared parental leave as you can maternity leave.
If you are in a situation where your child is not about to born or placed with you, there are some other options to consider:
Parental leave is 18 weeks of leave that can be taken up until the child is 18 years of age. The leave is per child, so if you have two children, then you can take 36 weeks before those children are 18 years of old. Again, this has got to be taken in chunks of one week and can only be taken as a maximum of four weeks per year. However, if you have more than one child you can take the appropriate uplifted amount – ie two children means that you can take eight weeks. There is no entitlement to pay during this leave, although some employers do enhance this amount. The idea is to give you flexibility to cover certain periods of time when you need to care for your children. Some employers also give flexibility around taking the leave, allowing employees to take days at a time rather than having to take the leave in week blocks.
Many employers will allow some level of flexible working. The law has a formal process to allow permanent changes to working arrangements, such as location or hours. However many employers allow short terms changes to hours or location to cope with changing circumstances. This was well evidenced in the pandemic with individuals working from home and also covering childcare.
Time to care for dependents
The time to care for dependents is during an emergency. The idea is to cover times when it is unexpected. Once again, there is no paid entitlement to time off for dependents, but it does provide protection and flexibility for those covering unexpected caring responsibilities.
Claire Merritt is partner in the employment team at Paris Smith solicitors