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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. For the remaining 33 weeks, the rate is £151.97 or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). For more information, read Statutory maternity pay
  • two weeks’ paid paternity leave (at either 90% of their average weekly earnings or £151.97, whichever is lower) plus the right to take an unused portion of the mother’s maternity leave. See Shared parental leave for more information
  • unpaid parental leave for up to 18 weeks before a child’s eighteenth  birthday. Normally, only 4 weeks of parental leave can be taken in any year. For more information, read Parental leave
  • parental bereavement leave of up to 2 weeks within one year following the death (or stillbirth) of a child. Parental bereavement leave can be paid or unpaid - for more information, read Parental bereavement leave
  • reasonable unpaid time off to deal with domestic emergencies. See Bereavement leave and pay for more information

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. You should consider having in place a written Flexible working policy.

For more information, read Flexible working.

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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