Balancing care with work & education

Taking parental leave

It can be stressful trying to manage your time if you're looking after a child. There might be times when you are unable to go work. You should make yourself aware of your rights to parental leave so that you can be prepared if there ever comes a time when you are unable to go to work.

If you have at least one year's continuous service with your employer and are responsible for a child aged under five (or under 18 if the child receives Disability Living Allowance) you are entitled to:

  • 13 weeks (unpaid) parental leave per child to look after your child, or
  • 18 weeks (unpaid) parental leave per child to look after your child with disabilities

When can leave be taken?
Leave can be taken in blocks of one week up to a maximum of four weeks leave in a year (for each child). It can also be taken in one day, or multiples of a day if the leave is to care for a child with disabilities, again to a maximum of four weeks in a year.

Collective or workforce agreements may allow employees to take leave in smaller blocks and/or may allow employees to take more than four weeks off in a year.

You can take leave at any time up to a child's fifth birthday. For the parents of a child receiving Disability Living Allowance, leave may be taken any time up to the child's eighteenth birthday. For parents who have adopted a child, the leave must be taken during the five years from the date of placement, or before the child's eighteenth birthday, whichever is the sooner.

Giving your employer notice
You must give at least 21 days notice in order to take parental leave. Leave can be postponed by your employer if taking leave at the time requested would cause particular disruption to the organisation, for example during a seasonal peak in work or if multiple requests for parental leave are made at the same time by a number of people.

If leave is postponed, your employer must inform you within seven days of the request for leave being made, and the leave must then be granted within six months. Parental leave cannot be postponed if it has been requested for the time immediately after the birth of a child or the start of an adoption placement.

Other information and advice
Contact the ACAS Helpline for free, confidential advice on all aspects of employment rights on 0300 123 1100.

Carers UK has advice and information on your rights in the workplace as a carer, and maintaining a balance between work and your responsibilities as a carer. There is also an advice service and telephone advice line on all carer issues.

Carers Trust offers advice to carers on employment issues.

Employers for Carers is committed to promoting the rights of carers in the work place, and stresses that it makes good economic sense to look after employees who are also looking after someone away from the work place.