Legislation overview

A very wide range of legislation governs maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave and pay. Most of the relevant legislation can be found consolidated into the Employment Rights Act 1996 or the Employment Relations Act 1999.

However, the Employment Act 2002, the Work and Families Act 2006, the Children and Families Act 2014, and numerous regulations have also brought significant changes.

GOV.UK provides guidance and interactive tools on maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay.

In Northern Ireland, information on maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave and pay is available from nidirect

Terminology

The terminology used in this area of employment law may cause confusion. The following terms are used in these Q&As:

  • Right to request flexible working – right to formally request more flexible working arrangements.

  • Unpaid parental leave – generally refers to the current right of up to 18 weeks’ extra unpaid leave (available in addition to the primary paid leave). See the Parental rights and family-friendly provisions Q&As.

  • EWC – Expected week of childbirth/week the baby is due. In these Q&As, the term ‘due’ is used where possible.

Q: What maternity leave are women employees entitled to?

Q: What notice is an employee required to give to their employer when taking maternity leave and when returning to work?

Q: Does an employee have a right to return to exactly the same job after maternity leave and what notice do they need to give if they do not intend returning to work?

Q: What benefits must employers provide during maternity leave?

Q: What is the position concerning holiday entitlement during maternity leave and shared parental leave?

Q: What happens to the level of statutory maternity pay if the employee is awarded a pay rise before or while absent on maternity leave?

Q: What statutory maternity pay must an employer pay?

Q: How does shared parental leave work?

Q: What are the qualification requirements for shared parental leave?

Q: What are the notification requirements for shared parental leave?

Q: What is curtailment of maternity leave and pay and how does it relate to shared parental leave?

Q: What do employers need to know about shared parental pay?

Q: Do employers need to communicate with an employee's partner's employer over shared parental leave and can they refuse requests?

Q: What problem areas arise for employers surrounding shared parental leave?

Q: What special rules apply to shared parental leave when babies are born early or late?

Q: What are keeping in touch (KIT) days during maternity leave and shared parental leave and what are the usual arrangements for payment?

Q: What happens if an employee is sick at the end of the period of maternity or paternity leave or shared parental leave?

Q: What happens if an employee's position becomes redundant during the maternity leave period?

Q: What other statutory claims may pregnant employees and those on maternity or shared parental leave bring against an employer who tries to dismiss or treat them less favourably as a result of exercising their rights?

Q: What discrimination claims may pregnant employees and employees on maternity leave bring against an employer under the Equality Act 2010?

Q: Is an employer taking a risk if they do not provide contractual parental leave packages to male and female employees and what claims may men bring against an employer who treats them less favourably?

Q: What time off must employers provide in relation to antenatal care?

Q: Which employees qualify for paternity leave?

Q: What paternity leave must employers provide?

Q: What notice is an employee required to give to their employer when taking paternity leave and to obtain statutory paternity pay?

Q: What statutory paternity pay and benefits must employers provide during paternity leave?

Q: What notice periods apply for delaying or cancelling the start of paternity leave or shared parental leave?

Q: What is the status of the employee's contract during paternity leave or shared parental leave absence?

Q: What happens if an employee's position becomes redundant during the shared parental leave period?

Q: Is an employee entitled to paid paternity leave, shared parental leave and unpaid parental leave?

Q: Which employees qualify for adoption leave?

Q: What adoption leave must employers provide?

Q: What notice is an employee required to give to their employer when taking adoption leave?

Q: What statutory adoption pay and benefits must employers provide during adoption leave?

Q: Does adoption leave apply to other situations such as an employee who already lives with their partner's children and then adopts them, or surrogacy arrangements?

Q: Do the adoption provisions apply to employees who are adopting a child from overseas?

Q: Can small employers reclaim the costs of maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay?

Q: Are any future developments expected in the area of maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave and pay?

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