That's correct, there are employee rights that I'd wager most employers don't even know about, including Parental Leave!
What is Parental Leave?
Parental Leave is NOT the same as Paternity Leave or Shared Parental Leave.
Parental Leave allows eligible employees to take four weeks on unpaid leave per year per child under 18. The leave must be taken in blocks of at least one week.
The leave is a statutory entitlement that eligible employees are entitled to. However some companies choose to offer an enhanced benefit such as paid leave or longer periods of leave.
Who is eligible?
To be eligible for Parental Leave employees must have or expect to have responsibility for a child under the age of 18 or who has been placed with them for adoption within the last 5 years and is under the age of 18.
You are able to ask employees for evidence of their responsibility for the child.
What is the process?
If an employee wants to request Parental Leave, they must give you 21 days notice and state the dates on which they wish the leave to start and finish.
If the dates requested would have a negative impact on business operations, you can postpone the leave, however you have to do this within 7 days of the request.
If you postpone Parental Leave for an employee, you must:
agree to allow the employee to take the same period of leave, but at a later date.
consult the employee about the new start date which must be within 6 months of the original requested date.
write to the employee to confirm the postponement, reasons for it and the new dates for the leave.
New fathers may request Parental Leave in addition to their Paternity Leave. If this is the case, he must give the same 21 days notice of the expected week of childbirth and specify the period of leave he wants to take.
The same rules apply if an employee wants to take Parental Leave at the time of placement for adoption.
Employers cannot postpone Parental Leave where it is being take on the birth or placement of a child.
When it comes to returning to work following a period of Parental Leave, the roles the employee is entitled to return to will vary depending on the length of their leave.
If the employee has taken a single period of parental leave of 4 weeks or less, or has tagged less than 4 weeks of Parental Leave onto the end of their Paternity Leave or Ordinary Maternity/Adoption Leave, the employee is entitled to return to the same job in which they were employed prior to the leave.
However, if the employee takes more than 4 weeks or has tagged 4 weeks or less onto a period of Additional Maternity/Adoption Leave, the employee would be entitled to return to the same job or another suitable alternative job if it is not reasonably practicable to return to the same job.
Parental Leave is unpaid, however you may decide to offer paid Parental Leave as part of your reward scheme.
Other than pay, the employee's contract remains in place and they remain an employee. The employee continues to accrue annual leave and all other rights and protections remain in place.
As with all other family friendly leave, the employees are protected from detriment as a result of taking the leave. Therefore refusal to grant a request or unreasonable postponement of leave may result in a tribunal claim. Similarly, if an employee suffers a detriment as a result of taking said leave, such as being overlooked for a promotion, a claim may be brought.
It's a statutory entitlement so let's not try to prevent employees taking it! I know what you're thinking...holy cow, now I've got to let them have even more time off!
Yep - but consider this. Parental Leave must be requested and planned in. So if an employee wants to take Parental Leave for the Easter Holidays, you can plan for it so that it doesn't affect your business, plus you don't have to pay them for it.
The alternative, is that the employee takes the time off anyway by going off sick or going AWOL which you wouldn't have planned for and causes all sorts of issues including creating more management tasks for you to sort when they get back to work.
So actually, it's a really great scheme that allows parents to have time off with their kids without it using up all their holiday entitlement or negatively impacting the business!
Until next time...