27th April 2017

Parental Leave – What is it and what is it not?

March saw the publication of the new Parental Leave Policy and Procedure for QCS members. There is generally a lot of confusion around the types of family leave which are available to employees, which is not helped by the fact that a number share very similar names. It is important that employers know what employees may be entitled to and do not get mixed up between the different types of leave.

Sometimes in order to define what something is, it’s necessary to determine what it’s not. Parental Leave should not be confused with the following types of family leave:

  1. Shared Parental Leave;
  2. Paternity Leave;
  3. Dependants Leave;
  4. Adoption Leave; or
  5. Maternity Leave.

So what is Parental Leave?

Parental Leave is a form of family leave to which employees (if eligible) have a statutory right. In order to be eligible for Parental Leave an employee must:

  1. Have at least one year’s continuous service;
  2. Have or expect to have parental responsibility for a child;
  3. Will be taking the leave in order to spend time with or otherwise care for the child.

If an employee satisfies these eligibility criteria, the employee will be entitled to take up to 18 weeks’ Parental Leave in respect of each child that the employee has parental responsibility. No more than four weeks Parental Leave can be taken in any year and must be taken in blocks of one week at a time. However, if the child is disabled, the employee is entitled to take Parental Leave one day at a time.

The right to Parental Leave is unpaid and last until the child’s 18th birthday.

There tends to be confusion between Parental Leave and Dependants Leave as they operate in similar ways. However, Dependants Leave generally gets used in emergency situations to provide care for illness or injury or in circumstances where a dependant’s care arrangements are disrupted. Dependants can also include spouses or parents as well as children, whereas Parental Leave is only relevant to care of children.

Why is this important?

As stated above this is a statutory right. Therefore if a request is made by an employee it must be dealt with. There are options to reject the request or postpone it for up to 6 months if the needs of the business mean that the Parental Leave would cause undue disruption if taken at the time requested. This is especially important in the health and care sector where ratios and staffing levels are essential to ensure regulatory compliance and where Service Users have a relationship with a member of staff which may be disrupted. However, it is important that any requests for Parental Leave, whether they are to be granted, rejected or postponed are dealt with properly and without unnecessary delay and reasons given for rejecting or postponing a request for Parental Leave are clear and concise in order to avoid any issues with the affected employee going forwards.

The QCS Parental Leave Policy and Procedure clearly sets out the process for dealing with a Parental Leave request and is available to all QCS clients.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Chris King

Employment Law Specialist

Chris is one of our Employment Law Specialists from Napthens Solicitors. Read more

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