Parental allowance (also known as maternity leave) is an employee right in the UK. And with nearly 700,000 babies born each year, maternity leave is an essential part of any employer’s responsibilities
But how does it work? And what is the newly introduced ‘shared parental leave’?
To answer these questions and more, we’ve put together a handy guide to parental allowance, maternity pay and how you can claim them.
What is Parental Allowance?
The term parental allowance is often interchangeable with maternity leave and is something that all female employees are entitled to when they give birth. If you are employed and pregnant, you are entitled to 52 weeks (that’s 1 year) of parental allowance, no matter how long you’ve worked for your employer.
This 52 weeks leave is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave.
You have a range of rights during this period and can also request that your employer provides flexible working arrangements if you decide to return to work at the end of your leave.
What Is the Difference Between Ordinary Maternity Leave and Additional Maternity Leave?
The first 26 weeks of maternity leave are known as ordinary maternity leave (OML) and the second 26 weeks are known as additional maternity leave (AML).
Additional maternity leave starts on the day after the ordinary maternity leave period finishes.
One important difference between ordinary and additional maternity leave is the extent of your right to return to work at the end of your maternity leave.
At the end of OML, you have the right to return to your old job without change or prejudice. At the end of AML your right to return is different. You still have the right to return to your old job, but if it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to offer this back to you, you can be offered an appropriately similar role on no less favourable terms. Things like seniority and pension conditions must remain unaffected.
Will I Get Paid While Taking Parental Allowance?
Yes, you will. Parental Allowance is paid weekly to help new parents take time off work to have time to prepare or care for your child. It’s paid for a maximum of 39 weeks and this can be shared between two parents.
How Much is Statutory Parental Allowance (Maternity Pay)?
The current rate of Statutory Maternity Pay is:
- 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
- £156.66 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks
SMP is paid in the same way as your wages and tax and National Insurance will be deducted.
Is Everyone Eligible for Parental Allowance?
Not necessarily. The main criteria for receiving parental allowance are:
- You are an employee
- You give your employer the correct amount of notice of the pregnancy
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in your current role, how many hours you work or how much you get paid, you will be entitled to parental allowance if you meet these criteria.
If you want to claim maternity pay you must:
- Earn on average at least £116 a week
- Have given the right notice period
- Be able to provide proof of pregnancy
- Have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks
What Laws Cover Parental Allowance?
There are a range of laws that protect parental allowance in the workplace. These include The Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999 which enshrine the right to 52 weeks maternity leave (39 of which is paid) in law for all employees.
On top of this, the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005 sets out guidelines for the fair treatment of those on maternity or paternity leave.
When Can I Start My Parental Allowance?
In most cases, the earliest you can start your parental allowance is 11 weeks before the week your baby is due.
If the baby comes early, your maternity leave will start the day after the birth. And if you’re off work for pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks before your baby is due, your leave will begin automatically. This is set out in law.
Can Employees Be Made Redundant While Using Parental Allowance?
The short answer is yes. But employers have to be incredibly careful with staff members on maternity leave as it can lead to claims of unfair dismissal. If an employer decides to make staff redundant, they cannot use the fact that an employee is on maternity leave as a reason to do so. They must make the decision fairly and ignore the fact that the employee in question is using their parental allowance. If they don’t do this, the redundancy can be considered as discrimination in UK law.
Can Employees Share Parental Allowance with My Partner?
Employees may be eligible to share parental leave and pay with their partner. Shared Parental Leave is designed to give parents the flexibility to decide when to return to work and allow families to spend time together in the early stages of a child’s life.
Leave and pay can be shared following the first 2 weeks after the baby’s birth. This means up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared.
Do Employees Have to Take All My Shared Parental Leave in One Go?
An employee does not have to take all their Shared Parental Leave at the same time. They can take Shared Parental Leave in up to 3 blocks and return to work in between. Each block must be a minimum of 1 week.
Shared Parental Leave can be taken by both parents at the same time so the employee and their partner can spend time at home together with your baby.
In a world where women are valued employees and colleagues, it makes perfect sense that they shouldn’t be at any disadvantage if they choose to take time off to have a baby. As an employer, providing a fair, generous maternity leave and pay policy while making sure you adhere to legal requirements is one way to get there.