Maternity, paternity and parental leave: employer guide

Last updated: 29 May 2018

If an employee is having or adopting a child, they should be eligible for leave.

The type of leave employees are eligible for depends on their situation.

Maternity leave

Eligible employees having a baby can take up to 52 weeks' maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is known as 'Ordinary Maternity Leave', the last 26 weeks as 'Additional Maternity Leave'.

The earliest leave that can be taken is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Employees must take at least 2 weeks after the birth (or 4 weeks if they're a factory worker).

The GOV.UK site has more information on maternity leave, including:

  • entitlement
  • eligibility and proof of pregnancy
  • notice periods
  • refuse pay form SMP1
  • record keeping
  • help with statutory pay

Paternity leave

Employees may be eligible for Statutory Paternity Leave if they and their partner are:

  • having a baby
  • adopting a child
  • having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement

Employees can choose to take either 1 week or 2 consecutive weeks' leave. The amount of time is the same even if they have more than one child (for example, if they have twins).

The start date must be either:

  • the actual date of birth
  • an agreed number of days after the birth
  • an agreed number of days after the expected week of childbirth

Leave must finish within 56 days of the birth (or due date if the baby is early). The start and end dates are different if the employee is adopting.

The GOV.UK site has more information on paternity leave, including:

  • entitlement
  • eligibility
  • notice periods
  • adoption
  • refuse pay form SPP1
  • record keeping
  • help with statutory pay

Adoption leave

When an employee takes time off to adopt a child or have a child through a surrogacy arrangement, they might be eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay and Leave.

Employees can take up to 52 weeks' Statutory Adoption Leave. The first 26 weeks is known as 'Ordinary Adoption Leave', the last 26 weeks as 'Additional Adoption Leave'.

Leave can start:

  • on the date the child starts living with the employee or up to 14 days before the expected placement date (UK adoptions)
  • when an employee has been matched with a child to be placed with them by a UK adoption agency
  • when the child arrives in the UK or within 28 days of this date (overseas adoptions)
  • the day the child's born or the day after (parents in surrogacy arrangements)

The GOV.UK site has more information on adoption leave, including:

  • entitlement
  • eligibility
  • notice periods
  • proof of adoption
  • refusing pay or leave
  • record keeping
  • help with statutory pay

Maternity and paternity calculator

The GOV.UK site offers a maternity and paternity pay calculator, which lets you calculate an employee's:

  • statutory maternity pay (SMP)
  • paternity pay
  • adoption pay
  • qualifying week
  • relevant employment period and average weekly earnings
  • leave period

Unpaid parental leave

Eligible employees can take unpaid parental leave to look after their child's welfare. For example, they may want to:

  • spend more time with their children
  • look at new schools
  • settle children into new childcare arrangements
  • spend more time with family, such as visiting grandparents

Their employment rights (like the right to pay, holidays and returning to a job) are protected during parental leave.

The GOV.UK site has more information on unpaid parental leave, including:

  • entitlement
  • eligibility
  • notice periods
  • delaying leave

Further help

The following organisations can offer employers or employees further help with maternity, paternity and parental leave.

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)

ACAS offer employers further information and guidance on how to treat pregnant or maternity leave employees fairly.

Find more information on the ACAS website

Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission offer help and support to both employers and employees

This includes advice on how to tell an employer about a pregnancy, and standard letters and templates employers can use with staff.

Family Friendly Working Scotland

Family Friendly Working Scotland work to help create flexible and family friendly working conditions in Scotland. They run a free legal advice helpline for staff.

Find more information on the Family Friendly Working Scotland website

Maternity Action

Maternity Action are a charity who offer advice to employers and employees on rights at work for maternity leave, pay and looking after children.

Find more information on the Maternity Action website

Healthy Working Lives

Healthy Working Lives offer more information and advice on workplace health, safety and wellbeing.

Find more information on the Healthy Working Lives website