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Parental leave

Overview of your parental leave rights

New parents who are working (including some self-employed people) are legally entitled to time off work so they can care for their newborn baby or their new adopted child under the age of six. Other people who permanently take over the primary care role for a child under six are also entitled to parental leave – for example, you’ll qualify if your grandchild comes to live with you and you’re going to raise the child in place of their parents.

To qualify to take parental leave from your job you must have worked for a minimum qualifying period of either six months or 12 months with that employer, with different entitlements being available to you depending on which of those two qualifying periods you meet (see “Taking parental leave from your job: Types of parental leave” in this section). Further, some leave is available only to the primary carer, and some only to the spouse or partner, while some is available to either of them.

Your employer doesn’t have to pay you while you’re on parental leave (unless they’ve agreed to it being paid leave), but parental leave payments are available under a government-funded scheme. To qualify for the payments, you must have worked as an employee – whether for one employer or several different employers – for an average of 10 hours a week in any 26 of the last 52 weeks (see “Parental leave payments” in this section).

Who’s entitled to parental leave?

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 2BA, 7, 8, 17

You may be entitled to take parental leave from your job if you or your partner is pregnant, or if you’re adopting or otherwise permanently taking over the care of a child under six years old.

To qualify, you must meet both of the following requirements:

  • you must have been employed by the same employer for at least 12 months (for full parental leave entitlements) or at least six months (for some entitlements) on the expected date of birth or on the date when you begin caring for the child, and
  • over that qualifying period, you must have worked for an average of at least 10 hours a week.

When is a spouse or partner entitled to parental leave?

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 2, 23, 24, 71E

To be eligible as a spouse or partner you must be married to, or be in a civil union or de facto relationship with, the primary carer of a child under six. This includes same-sex partners. As the spouse or partner you don’t have to be a natural parent of the child.

To be eligible you must also have worked for the relevant qualifying period (see above).

Can I take parental leave again for subsequent children?

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, s 6

Yes. You can take parental leave more than once, so long as it’s been at least six months since you returned to work at the end of the previous parental leave. You must also meet the eligibility requirements each time (see above, “Who’s entitled to parental leave?”).

Notifying your employer that you want to take parental leave

Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987, ss 31, 36

You must give your employer written notice, stating when you intend to go on parental leave and how long you’ll be on leave for.

If the child is going to be born to you or your partner (as opposed to you adopting or otherwise taking over the primary care role for a child), you have to give the written notice at least three months before the due date. You’ll need to include a certificate from a doctor or midwife.

Your employer must respond in writing within 21 days, stating whether you’re entitled to parental leave and, if not, giving reasons for this. Their response must also tell you whether your job can be kept open while you’re on leave.

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