Unpaid parental leave

Parental leave is a right to take unpaid time off work to look after a child or make arrangements for the child's welfare.

A maximum total of 18 weeks leave is available for each child up to their 18th birthday.

Unpaid Parental Leave should  not be confused with Shared Parental Leave which allows parents to share some maternity or adoption leave between them.

Parents can use the unpaid parental leave scheme to spend more time with children and strike a better balance between their work and family commitments.

Examples of the way that parental leave might be used are to spend more time with the child in the early years to:

  • look at new schools
  • settle a child into new childcare arrangements
  • enable the family to spend more time together, for example, taking the child to stay with grandparents

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An employee qualifies for parental leave if all the following apply:

  • they have one year's continuous service with the University at the date from when they wish to take the first period of leave
  • they are the parent (named on the birth/adoption certificate) of a child who is under 18 years old or they have acquired formal parental responsibility for a child who is under 18 years old

The right to parental leave applies to both mothers and fathers, whether they are natural or adoptive parents. Parents do not have to be living with a child in order to qualify for parental leave.

In some cases legal responsibility for looking after a child will have been given to someone other than a natural or adoptive parent, such as a guardian. If an individual has acquired parental responsibility for the child, they will be entitled to parental leave if the qualifying conditions are met.

Parental leave is an individual right and cannot be transferred between parents.

Mothers/primary adopters can take parental leave immediately after a period of maternity/adoption leave, provided that any notice requirements are met, and provided that other conditions, such as the qualifying period, are met.

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Each parent can take 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave for each child. This means that both parents in a couple, if they have twins or adopt more than one child at a time, can take 18 weeks' leave for each child. No more than four weeks of such leave may be taken in any year for each child. The year for this purpose is the twelve months beginning on the date the employee first became entitled to take parental leave in respect of the child in question. Parental leave is to be taken in blocks of a week. If an employee chooses to take a block of less than a week, this will be treated as though it were a full week's leave. A 'week' equals the length of time an employee normally works in a week.

The employment contract continues during an absence on parental leave, unless it is terminated by the employer or employee. This means that an employee continues to benefit from their employment rights during parental leave, including holiday accrual.

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Where the staff member taking unpaid parental leave is a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa holder a period of unpaid leave will need to be reported to the Home Office. Please contact the Staff Immigration Team or refer to their website for the latest guidance.

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An employee is required to give their department at least 21 days' notice of when they wish to take parental leave. If the employee or their partner are having a baby or adopting, notice is 21 days before the week the child is expected to be born or placed for adoption.

The employing department can, in certain circumstances, postpone a period of leave for up to six months if it considers that the operational needs of the department would be unduly disrupted if the employee took leave during the period requested. It is not possible to postpone parental leave when the application is for a period immediately after the birth or adoption of a child.

Departments should keep records of parental leave as part of their normal management procedures and best practice.

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Unpaid leave should be set up and recorded in PeopleXD. Please refer to the HR Systems website for guidance.

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PeopleXD guidance

For guidance on managing the PeopleXD systems changes please visit: