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The Employment Relationship: Parental & Family Rights

Mothers’ rights

A pregnant employee may take reasonable paid time off during working hours for ante-natal care.  This may include medical appointments but also any relaxation or parent craft classes that a doctor, midwife or health visitor has advised the employee to attend.

A pregnant employee is entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave (the first 26 weeks are “ordinary maternity leave” (OML) and the remaining 26 weeks are “additional maternity leave” (AML)).  All employees must take a minimum of two weeks’ ordinary maternity leave starting with the day on which childbirth occurs (in some cases this will be four weeks if, for example, the employee works in a factory) as “compulsory” maternity leave.  An employer will be guilty of a criminal offence if it allows an employee to work during compulsory maternity leave.

A woman who returns from maternity leave during OML is entitled to return to the same job in which she was employed before her absence (on the same terms and conditions, or terms which are not less favourable than they would have been had she not been absent). A woman returning during any period of AML is also entitled to return to the same job, but if for some reason (other than redundancy) it is not reasonably practicable for her to return to the same job (for example, due to reorganisation) she is entitled to return to a suitable and appropriate alternative job on terms which are no less favourable than they would have been had she not been absent.

Subject to meeting the qualifying conditions, mothers are entitled to statutory maternity pay for 39 weeks.  The first six weeks of maternity leave are paid at 90% of average weekly earnings (“AWE“) and the remaining 33 weeks are paid at the rate set by the Government each year (currently (2018/2019) £145.18) or 90% of their AWE (whichever is lower).

Note: These rights are broadly mirrored in cases of parents adopting.

 

Fathers’ & partner rights

Fathers and partners have the right to take unpaid time off work to accompany expectant mothers to up to two ante-natal appointments.  If eligible, they are also entitled to paternity leave, which may be taken either as one week, or a block of two consecutive weeks, during the period of 56-days following the birth (or adoption, as the case may be).

Eligible employees are entitled to receive paternity leave pay at a rate set by the Government each year or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).  Employers can usually reclaim 92% of these payments and up to 103% if their business qualifies for Small Employers’ Relief.

Note: These rights are broadly mirrored in cases of parents adopting.

 

Shared parental rights

Eligible parents may opt to take shared parental leave. This allows a mother to end her maternity leave (or commit to ending it at a future date) and to share the remaining untaken leave with the other parent.  This will enable mothers to return to work before the end of their leave without sacrificing the rest of the leave that would otherwise be available to them.

 

Other family rights

Employees may also benefit from other family friendly rights, including:

  1. (Unpaid) parental leave;
  2. Emergency time off for dependants, and;
  3. Flexible Working applications which employers are obliged to give proper consideration to where certain conditions are met.