Parental leave is a statutory right for parents to take time off work to look after a child or make arrangements for the child’s welfare. Parents can use it to spend more time with children and strike a better balance between their work and family commitments. Parental leave is usually unpaid but if you are on a low income you may be eligible for income support.

To be eligible you generally have to have one year’s continuous service with your current employer. You are entitled to thirteen weeks parental leave (in total) to care for a child, eighteen weeks for a disabled child. Parental leave is for each child so if you have twins you are entitled to thirteen weeks per child (or eighteen if they are disabled).

Leave can be taken in blocks of one week up to a maximum of four weeks leave in a year (for each child); or in one day, or multiples of a day if the leave is to care for a disabled child, again to a maximum of four weeks in a year.

You may take leave at any time up to a child’s fifth birthday; but for the parents of a disabled child, leave may be taken any time up the child’s 18th birthday.

You must give at least 21 days’ notice when you want to take parental leave. To help your employer, it is best to give this notice in writing.

At the end of parental leave, an employee is guaranteed the right to return to the same job as before if the leave was for a period of four weeks or less; if it was for a longer period the employee is entitled to return to the same job, or, if that is not reasonably practicable, a similar job which has the same or better status, terms and conditions as the old job.

This is a brief overview of the right to Parental Leave. For more details visit DirectGov