Parental Leave

Parental leave gives parents the right to take time off work to look after their children. It’s normally unpaid but some employers are more generous. Check your employment contract. To qualify you must:

  • have worked for your employer continuously for one year
  • give at least 21 days' notice
  • use the leave time to care for your child.

If you qualify, you must be allowed at least 18 weeks unpaid leave for each child aged under 18, regardless of whether they're disabled or not.

Both parents have the right to parental leave so each can take up to 18 weeks leave per child, to be used before the child's 18th birthday.

Normally you have to take parental leave in blocks of one week or more. However, parents of a child on Disability Living Allowance (find more on this in the Financial Benefits section) or Personal Independence Payment (find more on this in the Financial Benefits section under Teenagers) can take leave one day at a time. This means you could use parental leave for regular hospital visits.

The maximum amount of leave a parent can take for any one child in one year is normally four weeks, but your employer can let you take a longer period of parental leave each year if they wish.

If you take four weeks parental leave or less you’re guaranteed you can return to your same job. If you take more than four weeks and it’s not reasonably possible for you to be allowed to return to your old job, you’re entitled to a similar job with the same or better status as the previous one.

Contact for families with disabled children can give further support and advice: 
www.contact.org.uk/advice-and-support/your-child-your-family/work-childcare/

Your employer can ask you to postpone your leave for up to six months if it would cause disruption to their business. If this happens to you, you can get specialist advice: 

ACAS: www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3282

Working Families:
www.workingfamilies.org.uk/advice-information/free-parents-carers-helpline

Page last reviewed / updated: February 2021
Next review due: February 2022