Parents may apply for unpaid leave to care for a child under the age of 18.

1. Introduction

1.1 The right to unpaid parental leave is contained in the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999. It applies to employees who have completed one year's continuous service with their employer. It will allow parents with a child born or adopted after 15 December 1999 to take unpaid parental leave to care for that child.

1.2 The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform advises that, wherever possible, employers and employees should make their own agreements about how parental leave will work in a particular workplace. They may choose to do so through individual or collective agreements. Agreements can improve upon the fallback scheme (see section 3 below), but they cannot offer less. Queries on the application of this policy should be directed to your HR Adviser.

2. Policy

2.1 The right to unpaid parental leave applies to an employee who has completed one year's continuous service with the University and who has a child, born or adopted after 15 December 1999. Eligible staff who apply for parental leave will not be disadvantaged if they work part-time or irregular hours.

2.2 The right to take parental leave to care for their child applies to the mother and father of that child and to a person who has obtained formal parental responsibility for a child under the Children Act 1989 or its Scottish equivalent. Depending on the circumstances of an individual case, the University may give sympathetic consideration to applications for parental leave from employees with informal responsibility for looking after a child.

2.3 Effective from 5 April 2015, the employee's right to take parental leave is increased to the child's 18th birthday in all cases.

2.4 For leave starting on or after 6 April 2013, an employee has a right to take a total of 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave for each child. Normally, parental leave is taken in blocks or multiples of one week (with the exception that parents of disabled children can take leave in multiples of one day). Normally, up to a maximum of 4 weeks' parental leave per qualifying child can be taken in a year(See 1 in section 4 - notes), by agreement with the Head of Department (HoD),.

2.5 If parental leave is taken immediately after the child is born, or is placed with the family for adoption, or where it is taken immediately following the employee's maternity leave, it may be taken in a block of up to 18 weeks, by agreement with the HoD [subject to the required notice being given by the employee (see 2.7 below)].

2.6 Applications for parental leave should be made on the parental leave application form to the employee's HoD. Applications for additional parental leave (i.e. beyond 18 weeks) may be considered (depending on the circumstances of an individual case).

2.7 Normally, the employee is required to give at least 21 days' notice to their HoD that they wish to take parental leave.

2.8 It may be necessary for parental leave to be postponed if the HoD considers the employee's absence will disrupt, unduly, the operation of that department, but normally such a postponement will be for not more than 3 months. Notice of postponement and the reasons for it must be given within 7 days of the employee giving notice that he/she wishes to take parental leave. parental leave cannot be postponed when the employee gives notice to take it immediately after the child is born or is placed with the family for adoption(See 2 in section 4 - notes).

2.9 The employee will remain employed while on parental leave and the employment contract will continue to apply; (for example some terms and conditions of employment, such as contractual notice, redundancy terms and disciplinary and grievance procedures will still apply and the employee will be entitled to receive the customary annual increment on his/her salary with effect from the normal incremental date so long as a decision has not been made to withhold any incremental increases in accordance with the University's performance management or disciplinary procedures), unless the contract is terminated by the employer or employee (See 3 in section 4 - notes).

2.10 Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, the contract of an employee who is on unpaid parental leave will remain in existence. Consequently in any leave year in which the employee is on unpaid parental leave, he/she will receive a minimum annual holiday entitlement of 28 days (inclusive of Public/Bank Holidays and Customary Holidays) as specified under the Working Time Regulations 1998. In practice, for University employees, it may be that because of the way in which his/her return to work date falls in relation to the leave year, he/she may be entitled to more than the minimum of 28 days.

2.11 During a period of unpaid parental leave (other than one immediately following the employee's maternity leave, which will be treated for pension purposes as maternity leave) the University will continue to pay employer and employee pension contributions, and the employee's pensionable service will also continue, so long in each case as the employee has agreed to return to work if fit to do so and to repay the employee contributions for the parental leave period. Pension contributions for absences of 3 - 4 weeks will be recovered from the person's salary over the following 2 months; contributions for absences of less than 3 weeks will be recovered in the first salary payment following return to work. Otherwise, for the duration of the unpaid leave period, contributions will not be paid and benefits will not accrue, but in the event of the employee's death or ill-health retirement full benefits will be paid on the basis of salary and service up to the date contributions were suspended, unless the member has left the scheme since.

2.12 At the end of parental leave an employee has the right to return to the same job as before, or, if that is not practicable, to a similar job which has the same or better status, terms and conditions as the old job; where the leave taken is for a period of 4 weeks or less, the employee will be entitled to go back to the same job.

2.13 Employers are not required to keep statutory records of parental leave taken. However, when an employee changes jobs, employers will be free to make enquiries of a previous employer or seek a declaration from the employee about how much parental leave he/she has taken. Departments are advised to record parental leave taken using existing systems (i.e. those used for recording annual leave, flexitime leave and compassionate leave) and to keep those records for one year after an employee has left the University (in case of enquiries by another employer).

3. Fallback Scheme

3.1 Where employers and employees have not entered into an agreement about parental leave, or until they have done so, the Fallback Scheme set out in the Regulations applies. The Fallback Scheme in the Regulations provides for employees to take parental leave:

  1. in blocks or multiples of one week (except that parents of disabled children can take parental leave in blocks or multiples of one day; a disabled child is a child for whom disability living allowance is awarded);
  2. after giving 21 days' notice;
  3. up to a maximum of 4 weeks' parental leave in a year can be taken in respect of each individual child;
  4. subject to postponement by the employer for up to 6 months where the employer's business would be particularly disrupted if the parental leave were taken at the time requested;
  5. but parental leave cannot be postponed when the employee gives notice to take it immediately after the time the child is born or is placed with the family for adoption.

3.2 Employers are not required to keep statutory records of parental leave taken, although many will want to do so for their own purposes. When an employee changes jobs, employers will be free to make enquiries of a previous employer or seek a declaration from the employee about how much parental leave he/she has taken.

3.3 Employees will have the right to go to an employment tribunal if the employer prevents or attempts to prevent them from taking parental leave. An employee will also be protected from victimisation, including dismissal, for taking parental leave.

4. Notes

4.1 Where a year would be defined as a rolling 12 months' period, in the same way that it is used for calculating entitlement to sick pay/leave.

4.2 Postponement of parental leave under this paragraph will not affect the maximum of other parental leave which may be taken in any year to which it is postponed. If parental leave duly applied for before a child's fifth birthday - or a disabled child's 18th birthday - is postponed, under this paragraph, until after the relevant birthday, it may still be taken.

4.3 In so far as employees have rights under their contract of employment to be treated as members of the academic staff, or of the University, they will retain those rights during any period of parental leave.

Further information


Last reviewed and updated: January 2019