unpaid parental leave

Monday morning school runs feeling like a struggle? Your children growing up too quickly and you just need them to slow down so you can savour their “littleness” for a little while longer? Got a poorly kid and need to be by their side rather than rely on relatives? Did you know that employees in the UK are legally entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave, per child, until their son or daughter is 18? *subject to eligibility*

When can you claim unpaid parental leave?

The brilliant thing is that you really can use this for any reason, so if annual leave isn’t enough to cover school holidays then this is one more way of extending your leave, albeit unpaid so you’d need to budget for it.

Whatever the reason, your employer has to give you this time off – up to a maximum of four weeks a year, unless your boss agrees otherwise. Unpaid parental leave has to be taken in full weeks too, so you can’t just ask for the odd day off.

N.B This leave applies to each child not each job.

Are you eligible?

  • you’ve been with the company for more than a year
  • you’re named on the child’s birth or adoption certificate or you have or expect to have parental responsibility
  • you’re not self-employed or a ‘worker’, eg an agency worker or contractor
  • you’re not a foster parent (unless you’ve secured parental responsibility through the courts)
  • the child is under 18

How much notice do you need to give?

You must give 21 days’ notice before your intended start date. If you or your partner are having a baby or adopting, it’s 21 days before the week the baby or child is expected.

You must confirm the start and end dates when you give notice. Unless an employer requests it, this doesn’t have to be in writing.

Paid parental leave

If your employer offers paid parental leave this tends to be for serious circumstances such as initial time off to sort out childcare where the normal arrangements have been cancelled (such as a school snow day) or just the first day of your child being taken sick so you can make alternative arrangements.

To feel confident asking for the time off you’re entitled to, read the legislation here or copy and paste it into a message to your boss requesting the time.

unpaid parental leave boy in mum's arms