Parental Leave & Time Off For Emergencies

Read’s guide to your right to take parental leave and emergency time off to look after a child’s welfare.  These rights are in addition to paternity or Shared Parental Leave.

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It is the right of every employee who is a parent to take time off work in the form of parental leave and emergency time off to look after a child’s welfare. Read on to find out more about your rights.

Emergency time off for dependants

As an employee you are allowed to take time off work to deal with an emergency relating to a dependant – such as your child.

There is no set time allowed under this regulation – but you are allowed to take ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid leave in order to care for a child in case of emergency. ‘Reasonable’ is not defined in employment law. This unpaid leave is deemed to be available for short-term emergencies and also to enable you to arrange alternative childcare/care for the dependent.

For example, you may take unpaid time off work to take the child to the doctor, and make alternative care arrangements for them. After that, your employer may ask you to take annual leave to cover any further time off you require.

Under section 57A of Employment Rights Act 1996 there are no limits on how many times you can take time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependent. However, the law is clear that you can’t have time off if you knew about the situation beforehand e.g. if one of your children had a doctor’s appointment that you knew about weeks in advance.

Parental leave

The right to take parental leave is open to all eligible employees. This leave is usually unpaid and should not be confused with Shared Parental Leave which is about sharing leave after a baby is born.

People may choose to take unpaid parental leave for a variety of reasons, such as to spend more time with their children, or to settle children into a new school or childcare arrangement.

You are eligible to take parental leave if you have completed one year’s continuous service with an employer.

Parental leave can be taken any time up to a child’s 18th birthday, and you are entitled to up to 18 weeks unpaid Parental leave for each child born or adopted. The amount of parental leave a parent can take for each child is restricted to 4 weeks per year, unless otherwise agreed by your employer.

Requesting parental leave

In order to take parental leave you will need to make a request to your employer giving at least 21 days’ notice of the date on which you intend to start the leave. Your employer may ask for this notice to be given in writing. If you wish to take parental leave straight after your child is born or adopted, you should give notice 21 days before the beginning of the expected week of birth or placement. If this is not possible (i.e. if your child is born prematurely or you are given less than 21 days’ notice of placement) you should give notice to your employer as soon as possible.

Provided you give the correct notice to your employer and you qualify for parental leave, you should be able to take it at any time.

You are not able to take “odd” days off, unless your child is disabled or your employer agrees otherwise. Parental Leave needs to be taken in blocks or multiples of a week, where a week equals your usual working pattern over 7 days.

Whilst you are on parental leave you will remain employed, and continue to have the same employment rights such as holiday rights, rights regarding pay and your job held until you return.

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