Parental Leave (Northern Ireland)
Being a parent is an exciting and rewarding experience. It can also be a challenging time as you seek to balance the demands of work and childcare.
The NASUWT is committed to supporting you, ensuring that you receive the advice you need about what Parental Leave means for you.
This quick guide provides you with key information about your rights at work regarding Parental Leave.
Parental Leave provides you with the ability to take time off work to look after your child’s welfare. This includes spending more time with your child.
In addition to Parental Leave, you may also be entitled to Shared Parental Leave. The NASUWT has produced separate advice and guidance on Shared Parental Leave.
Notifying your employer
You must give your employer 21 days’ notice, including the start and end dates, of your intention to take parental leave.
If you, or your partner, are having a baby or adopting, then your notice period is 21 days before the week the baby or child is expected. If you are not able to do this (e.g. premature birth), then it should be given as soon as practically possible.
Your employer may ask for this in writing.
To qualify for Parental Leave, you must:
- have a contract of employment;
- have worked for your employer for a year or more;
- be named on the birth certificate/adoption certificate or expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing (parental responsibility).
Your employer may ask you to provide proof of your parental responsibility (e.g. birth certificate).
Leave from work
Each parent, if they are a permanent employee, is entitled to take 18 weeks’ unpaid leave for each child and adopted child up until their 18th birthday.
Your leave can start once your child is born or placed for adoption, or as soon as you have completed a year's service, whichever is later.
This is limited to a maximum of four weeks per child per year which can only be taken as whole weeks, unless your child is disabled (when shorter blocks are permissible).
A ‘week’ is based on the length of time you would work over seven days (e.g. if you normally work two days a week then one ‘week’ of parental leave equals two days).
Unless Parental Leave immediately follows birth or adoption, the employer can postpone your request for up to six months, but only if they have a ‘significant reason’ for doing so (e.g. it would cause serious disruption to the business).
If your employer does postpone your request then they must write to you within seven days of your original request explaining why.
The employer must consult with you and suggest an alternative date when you can take the same amount of leave. This must take place within six months from the initial date requested.
Parental Leave policies
Your employer may well have a Parental Leave policy which is better than the statutory entitlements.
It is important that you check your contract of employment and request a copy of the Parental Leave policy from your employer.
If your employer has a Parental Leave policy, you are entitled to be given a copy.
Other rights during Parental Leave
During your Parental Leave, your terms and conditions of employment are protected. Your employer cannot change your terms and conditions of employment whilst you are on Parental Leave without your agreement.
You also cannot be dismissed from employment or subject to unfair treatment because you have taken Parental Leave.
You have the right to return to the same job if you took Parental Leave of four weeks or less. If you have taken more Parental Leave (i.e. four weeks for one child and two weeks for a second child), then you have the right to return to a job that is not significantly different, but it may not be the same.
If your employer is proposing to make changes that could affect your employment, you should contact the NASUWT immediately.
Further advice and guidance
For further advice and guidance, please contact the NASUWT. We can help with information and advice to support you throughout your Parental Leave. We will be happy to discuss your circumstances and answer your questions.
Email: [email protected]