Time off for parents
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the Pink Book of Legislation, we regret that we cannot be responsible for any errors. This guide is not intended to be a definitive statement of the law in England. If you require precise or detailed information on the legislation mentioned in this guide, or on the legal implications for you in particular, you should consult a professional legal adviser.
- All employers are required to comply with legislation related to family-friendly working.
- Employees' rights in this area include maternity and paternity rights, adoption leave, flexible working and parental leave.
There are laws that support working parents in combining work with looking after their children. As well as your legal duty to uphold these rights, it is also good practice to support family-friendly working and flexible working arrangements for all types of employees.
Regardless of how long they have worked for you, all pregnant employees, (i.e. those working under a contract of employment) are entitled to take up to 52 weeks' statutory maternity leave (SML). This comprises of:
- 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave
- 26 weeks Additional Maternity Leave
Additional Maternity Leave starts immediately after ordinary maternity leave.
Statutory maternity pay
To qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) an employee must have been:
- employed continuously (some breaks do not interrupt continuous employment) for at least 26 weeks into the 15th week before the due date
- earning an average of at least £112 a week (before tax).
Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for up to 39 weeks with employees receiving:
- 90% of their average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
- £139.58 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.
SMP is to be paid in the same way as the employee receives their normal wages (e.g. monthly or weekly).
Employees can choose when SMP will start, although this will normally coincide with their taking Ordinary Maternity Leave. The earliest SMP can start is 11 weeks before the due date. Employees entitled to SMP are entitled to receive it even if they decide to leave before they start receiving SMP. They do not have to repay it if they decide not to go back to work or leave their job whilst getting SMP.
Employees who have 26 weeks' service by the 15th week before the Expected Week of Childbirth are entitled to two weeks’ paternity leave at or around the date the child is born. Employees may also take paternity leave if:
- they are not the biological father, but are the biological mother’s partner
- they expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing
- they have adopted the child or are the partner of the person who has adopted.
Ordinary Paternity Leave is for a period of one or two weeks. Additional Paternity Leave is available for a maximum of 26 weeks and can be taken any time from 20 weeks after the child is born until its first birthday, provided that the child's mother has returned to work. In the case of adoption, it can start anytime between 20 weeks and 52 weeks after the child starts living with the adopter.
To qualify for Additional Paternity Leave, employees must provide notice in writing at least eight weeks before the start of the leave. This must include:
- the expected date of the baby's birth or date of notification of being matched for adoption
- the actual date of the baby's birth, or placement of adoption
- the start date of the Additional Paternity Leave and pay.
Statutory paternity pay
Similarly to maternity pay, the statutory weekly rate of Ordinary Paternity Pay and Additional Paternity Pay is £139.58, or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).
- Note: Maternity and paternity leave and pay requirements also apply to same-sex couples.