The Right to Parental Leave
The right to parental leave applies to all employees with a minimum of one year’s service who have parental responsibility. The right comes to an end on the child’s fifth birthday or, in the case of an adopted child, the fifth anniversary of adoption. The right is extended to age eighteen for disabled children.
How long can a parent take.
Each employee can take 18 weeks per child but the leave must be taken in blocks no shorter than a week and a maximum of four weeks each year is allowable.
How to take Parental Leave
Employees do not have to justify a request to take parental leave or provide a reason for taking it. A parent may use the right to parental leave as he sees fit and as such is perfectly entitled to use the leave to take a young child on holiday. An employee intending to take parental leave should give their employer 21 day’s notice of their intention. An employer is permitted to delay the granting of the leave by up to six months if their business would be unduly disrupted, they must however offer an alternative time. If the delay means that a child has reached its fifth birthday before the leave is taken then expiration of the right will be postponed until the leave has been taken. Any unreasonable postponement of parental leave may be challenged in an Employment Tribunal under Section 80 of the Employment Rights Act
Are Employment Rights Affected during Parental Leave
In common with the provisions for maternity leave an employee taking parental leave must remain the same as if they were at work. For example there is a right to return at the end of the leave to the same job. In addition, any employee suffering a detriment, such as unfair dismissal or being denied promotion as a result of taking parental leave would be entitled to present a case to an employment tribunal under Section 47C of the Employment Rights Act
Who has Parental Responsiblity?
This is defined by the Children’s Act 1989
Time off for dependants
This is a statutory right to unpaid time off in order to take action in connection with dependants. There are very specific circumstances giving rise to the right and dependants is fairly narrowly defined
Definition of dependants
A dependant is defined as a spouse; a child; a parent or anyone living in the same household. For some purposes people who are ‘reasonably reliant on the employee may also be considered dependants.
The circumstances under which an employee may take time off work
An employee is entitled to be permitted by his employer to take a reasonable amount of time off during working hours in order to take action which is necessary—
(a) to provide assistance on an occasion when a dependant falls ill, gives birth or is injured or assaulted,
(b) to make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured,
(c) in consequence of the death of a dependant,
(d) because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant, or
(e) to deal with an incident which involves a child of the employee and which occurs unexpectedly in a period during which an educational establishment which the child attends is responsible for him.
The most important thing to remember is that the time off is only to take action.
Making arrangements for the care of a child who is too sick to go to school would be taking action but taking two weeks off to care for a child with chicken pox would not be covered by the legislation. Taking regular time off to care for relatives with chronic conditions or to take them to regular appointments is not covered either.
How long can an employee take off?
There is no defined limit but the time off must be a reasonable amount. Reasonable has been considered in the case of Qua v John Ford Morrison 2003 [ICR] 482 In this case reasonable is described as no more than a few hours or one or possibly two days.
The nature of the incident, the closeness of the relationship of the dependant to the employee and whether anyone else was available to take care of the dependant would also be considered.
There is no limit on the number of times which an employee can take leave or maximum number of occassions per year.
The disruption or inconvenience caused to the employer’s business is irrelevant insofar as determining reasonableness for the purposes of Section 57A ERA 1996.
Informing the employer
The nature of taking Time off for dependants is to allow time to take action in case of emergencies. An employee must inform the employer ‘as soon as practicable’ and let the employer know how long the absence is expected to last. If an emergency does not permit an employee to inform his employer then he should inform his employer as soon as is reasonably practicable.
There is no need to provide proof of the emergency and the employer has no right to demand proof of entitlement to the leave.
An employer cannot ask for a doctor’s certificate, a letter from school or any other form of evidence if an employee has to leave work to attend to a family emergency.
Suffering a detriment after taking time off for dependants
In common with other statutory rights, an employee must not suffer a detriment as a result of seeking to rely on this right. So, an employee who is dismissed for taking time off to make arrangements for a dependant would be considered to have been automatically unfairly dismissed. Similarly an employee who is denied promotion or selected for redundancy because they have had to take time off to deal with family emergencies would be entitled to present a case to an employment tribunal.