Family leave and rights

Good practice mandates a business to be family friendly. It makes sense - staff who are able to fit their family life around your business requirements tend to be loyal and dedicated workers. Read this guide to help you develop this relationship from the start.
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Employees have a variety of ‘family friendly’ rights, including:

  • maternity/adoption leave of up to one year. The first 39 weeks of leave is paid at a statutory rate. For six weeks, the rate is 90% of normal salary then a fixed rate applies. For more information, read about Statutory maternity pay
  • two weeks’ unpaid paternity leave plus the right to take an unused portion of the mother’s maternity leave
  • unpaid parental leave for up to 13 weeks before a child’s fifth birthday. Normally, only four weeks of parental leave can be taken in any year. reasonable unpaid time off to deal with domestic emergencies

If an employee requests to work flexibly (including part-time or from home) in order to care for a dependent, then a statutory process applies. Because flexible working requests are likely to contain sensitive personal data (ie data that comes within the 'special categories' of personal data), employers must ensure that it is processed in accordance with their Data protection policy and employee privacy notice - a statement describing how you collect, use, retain and disclose personal information. To avoid discrimination claims, such requests should only be refused where the decision can be objectively justified on clear business grounds.

Family friendly rights are complex and can give rise to tricky discrimination issues in practice.

Difficult areas include the effect of leave on holiday, bonus and pension rights or where the employer or employee wants to change the employment arrangements after the leave ends.

For more help with any of these issues, Ask a lawyer.

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