There are various types of ‘family friendly’ leave, of which maternity and paternity are the most common. Family friendly leave is governed by prescriptive rules regarding who is entitled to take such leave, when and how it may be taken and how it should be paid. 

Maternity leave

All employees who are expecting a baby are entitled to a total of 52 weeks’ maternity leave, consisting of 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave, subject to certain notification requirements. Employees must take at least two weeks’ maternity leave starting with the day on which their child is born, and an employer who allows an employee to work during that period will be guilty of a criminal offence.

Maternity pay

Employees will be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (“SMP”) if they have sufficient continuous employment and sufficient earnings, and comply with certain notification requirements. Employees who qualify for SMP will be entitled to 39 weeks’ SMP at the prescribed rates. The first six weeks of maternity leave are paid at the higher rate of 90% of an employee’s average earnings, and the prescribed rate set annually by the government.

Employers may, and often do, provide for maternity pay in excess of the statutory minimum, in which case the relevant rules and provisions should be set out in a policy.

Other rights during maternity leave

A number of other rights exist during an employee’s pregnancy and maternity leave, including the right to time off for antenatal appointments, the right to return to the same job following a period of maternity leave, priority for alternative employment in redundancy cases, and protection form dismissal, detriment or discrimination by reason of pregnancy or maternity.

Paternity leave

Eligible employees are entitled to take either one complete week or two consecutive weeks paternity leave within 56 days’ of a child’s birth. The purpose of paternity leave is to enable an employee to care for the child, or to support the child's mother.

In order to qualify for paternity leave, the individual must be an employee with sufficient service with their employer and must have one of the specified relationships with the child or the child’s mother. The employee must also give the employer the required notice and (where requested) the necessary evidence of entitlement.

Paternity pay

Eligible employees will be entitled to receive ordinary statutory paternity pay (“OSPP”). OSPP is payable for the period of one or two consecutive weeks’ paternity leave within 56 days’ of a child’s birth. OSPP is paid at the rate of the lesser of the prescribed rate set annually by the government, and 90% of the employee's normal weekly earnings.

Adoption leave and pay

An eligible adopter will, subject to certain notification requirements, be entitled to up to 52 weeks' statutory adoption leave and up to 39 weeks’ statutory adoption pay. They will also have other rights, such as the right to return to the same job (or, in certain circumstances, to a suitable alternative job), and protection from detriment or dismissal relating to adoption leave.

An adopter’s partner / spouse may be entitled to paternity leave and pay (please see above).

Shared parental leave and pay

Shared parental leave, introduced in 2015, allows eligible parents to share up to 50 weeks’ of leave and 37 weeks’ of pay. The scheme is intended to increase flexibility in terms of childcare in the first year of a child’s life, but there are very detailed and prescriptive eligibility and notification requirements.

Parental leave

Parental leave is unpaid leave available to eligible parents. 18 weeks’ leave per child may be taken up to a child’s 18th birthday, with no more than four weeks' leave being taken in respect of a particular child in any one year. It must be taken in blocks of one week unless agreed otherwise, or unless the child is disabled, where it may be taken a day at a time.


Posted on 15/06/2016 in Legal Updates

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