Family friendly rights

Family friendly rights


Paternity leave

Paternity Leave is now a right for those employees whose children were born after the 6th April 2003. In order to qualify for paternity leave you must have, or expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing, be the biological father of the child, or the mother’s husband or partner, and have worked continuously for your employer for 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the baby is due.

Eligible employees can choose to take either one week or two consecutive weeks’ paternity leave (not odd days). You can choose to take the leave from the date of the child’s birth, whether this is earlier or later than expected; from a chosen number of days or weeks after the child’s birth; or from a chosen date later than the first week in which the baby is expected to be born.

Leave can start on any day of the week on or following the child’s birth but must be completed within 56 days of the actual birth of the child; or if the child is born early, within the period from the actual date of birth up to 56 days after the first day of the expected week of birth. Only one period of leave is allowed irrespective of whether the birth is a multiple birth. Statutory Paternity Pay is paid by employers at a rate of £138.18 a week or 90% of earnings (whichever is lower).

Employees must inform their employer of their intention to take paternity leave by the end of the 15th week before the baby is expected, unless this is not reasonably practicable. You must inform your employer the week the baby is due, whether you want one or two weeks leave, when you want your leave to start. You can change your mind about the date on which you want your leave to start providing you let your employer know 28 days in advance, unless this is not reasonably practicable.

You are entitled to return to the same job following paternity leave and can complain to an industrial tribunal if you have been treated unfairly.

Maternity leave

These rights apply to mothers whose babies are due or born on or after the 6th April 2003.

The length of ordinary maternity leave has increased to 26 weeks, regardless of how long you have worked for your employer. Women who have completed 26 weeks continuous service with their employer by the beginning of the 14th week before the baby is due can take additional maternity leave, Additional maternity leave starts immediately after ordinary maternity leave and continues for a further 26 weeks. Additional maternity leave is usually unpaid although you may have a contractual right to be paid.

You must inform your employer of the intention to take maternity leave by the end of the 15th week before the expected date of childbirth. You must tell your employer that you are pregnant, the week that the baby is expected, and when you want your maternity leave to start. You can alter this date by giving your employer 28 days notice. Your employer must respond within 28 days setting out the start and end dates of your maternity leave. You cannot work for two weeks after giving birth.

Parental leave

Employees – both mothers and fathers – who have completed one year’s service are entitled to 13 weeks parental leave. The leave is unpaid unless specified by your employer. Parents are allowed 13 weeks in total for each child, unless the child is disabled where the allowance is increased to 18 weeks. For parents of twins, 26 weeks is allowed, 13 weeks for each child. Employees can choose to take parental leave at any time:

  • Parents of children born on or after 15th December 1999 can take the leave up until the child’s fifth birthday
  • Parents of children born between 15t December 1994 and the 14th December 1999 can take leave up to 31st March 2005
  • In adoption cases where the date of placement is on or after 15th December 1999, for five years after the child is first placed with the family for adoption.
  • Adoptive parents of children placed for adoption between 15th December 1994 and 14th December 1999 can take leave up until 31st March 2005
  • In the case of a child with a disability up until the child’s 18th birthday.
  • If the employers and the employees cannot agree on how to implement parental leave then it will fall back on the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999. This states:
  • Parental Leave should be taken in blocks of one week, except for parents of disabled children who can take their leave a day at a time.
  • The employee should give 21 days notice to the employer before taking Parental Leave.
  • Only up to a maximum of four weeks leave in any one year should be taken.

An employer can postpone an employee's right to take Parental Leave for up to 6 months where the employer's business would not be able to cope. However, an employer cannot postpone an employee's right to take Parental Leave if it is taken immediately after a child is born or placed with a family for adoption.

If an employee is prevented from taking Parental Leave or is dismissed or victimised for taking Parental Leave they may complain to an Employment Tribunal.

Flexible working

In order to make this request you must be an employee, have at least 6 months continuous employment, at the time of the request, and have a child under the age of six. (18 in the case of a disabled child).

Eligible employees will be able to request:

  • A change to the hours they work
  • A change to the times when they are required to work
  • To work from home

The new right does not provide an automatic right to work flexibly, only that their employer must consider their application seriously.

The employee must make the request in writing, within 28 days the employer should arrange to meet with the employee to discuss the application, and within 14 days after the meeting the employer must write to the employee to either accept or decline the proposal. You will have a 14-day period to appeal against the employer’s decision

Family emergencies

In many cases you now have the right to take time off work to deal with an emergency involving someone who depends on you. You cannot be penalised by your employer for taking the time off providing your reasons for doing so are genuine.

An emergency is when someone who depends on you: is ill and needs your help, is involved in an accident or is assaulted, needs you to arrange for their longer term care, needs you to deal with an unexpected disruption or breakdown in care, such as a nurse or childminder failing to turn up, or goes

into labour. You can also take time off if a dependant dies and you need to make funeral arrangements or attend the funeral.

Your husband, wife or partner, child or parent, or someone living with you as part of your family can all be considered as depending on you. Others who solely rely on you for help in an emergency may also qualify.

You can take off as much time as it takes to deal with the immediate emergency. For example if a child falls ill you can take enough time off to deal with their initial needs, such as taking them to the doctor and arranging for their care, but you will need to make other arrangements if you want to stay off work longer to care for them yourself.

There is no legal right to be paid for this leave; it is up to the discretion of your employer unless there is a provision contained in your contract of employment. You must tell your employer as soon as possible why you are not at work and how long you expect to be off.

There are very strict time limits for submitting applications to an employment tribunal. The deadline for most applications is 3 months from the incident complained about, except in redundancy cases or in equal pay claims when it is 6 months.

Check the disciplinary and grievance section for more information on time limits. For more information contact your regional office, quoting your UCATT membership number.

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