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If you’re an employee and a parent, you’re entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave to look after your child, up to their 18th birthday.

The law provides this basic allowance of 18 weeks per child, but your employer may have a more generous agreement. Some may continue your pay, although they have no legal obligation to do this.

Parental leave must be taken in blocks of a week, unless your child is disabled, in which case you can take it in shorter blocks.

A maximum of four weeks’ leave can be taken in any one year, unless your employer has agreed something different, or unless your child is disabled, in which case you can decide when to take the 18-week allocation, up to their 18th birthday.

To qualify for parental leave, you must have ‘parental responsibility’ for the child. This includes adoptive parents and surrogate parents.

You shouldn’t suffer any unfavourable treatment because you’ve taken parental leave (e.g. a pay cut, harassment or a job downgrade) and your employer can’t unreasonably refuse or postpone your parental leave.

If any of that happens, you can complain to an employment tribunal. But the law around parental leave is complicated, so before taking action, you should get advice from your union rep or another qualified advisor.

Parental leave is different from ‘shared parental leave’, which allows maternity and adoption leave to be shared between parents.

Are you a rep? You can find more practical advice on a range of workplace issues in our support for reps section

What is parental leave?
The law allows working parents, or others with a formal parental responsibility, who are employees and who have worked for their current employer for at least 12 months, up to 18 weeks’ leave for each child up to the age of 18. 
What happens to my conditions of service when I’m on parental leave?
During parental leave, you will still be an employee but your employer is not obliged to pay your wages during that time. All other terms of your contract of employment, and all the rights and obligations under it, remain in place. You continue to accrue statutory holiday, which can be taken after the end of your leave (although not necessarily immediately after it – you will need to agree it with your employer). 
I’m the parent of a disabled child. What are my rights to parental leave?
All parents are entitled to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave (maximum four weeks per year) to be used at any time up to the child’s 18th birthday.
Who counts as a ‘parent’ in order to be able to take parental leave?
Only parents, carers with 'parental responsibility' or who expect to get 'parental responsibility', and fathers who are registered on a child’s birth certificate are entitled to take parental leave for a child.
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