Family-friendly policies are at the forefront of supporting parents into work and improving retention of staff for any company.
Employees should know their rights to maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave and flexible working in order to raise and support their families.
Your employer could also benefit from getting involved with childcare; either providing information of services to employees direct, facilitating childcare voucher schemes or contributing to the provision of childcare services.
Becoming a working parent
Getting used to balancing the needs of your family and the demands of paid employment can take time. Having confidence in your childcare arrangements helps.
The Government is encouraging employers to offer a range of policies to help parents balance the demands of their job with bringing up children.
Employers who provide work-life balance arrangements to help their employees could gain from:
more loyal staff who don’t need to take unauthorised leave
an increase in the number of staff who return to work after maternity leave
experienced and skilled staff staying on after they have children
good returns on investment in training staff
high levels of staff productivity
better public image.
You are entitled to maternity leave if you are an employee. There are two lengths of maternity leave: Ordinary Maternity Leave and Additional Maternity Leave.
As an ‘employee’ you are entitled to 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML). Additional Maternity Leave (AML) lasts for 26 weeks and starts at the end of ordinary maternity leave. The combined 52 weeks is known as Statutory Maternity Leave. Provided you meet certain notification requirements, you can take this no matter how long you've been with your employer, how many hours you work or how much you're paid.
If you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, you may qualify for Maternity Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance if you have not returned to work for health reasons.
You qualify for paternity leave if you:
are an employee, with a contract of employment (most agency workers and sub contractors don't have the right to paid paternity leave) and
are the biological father of the child, or are the mother's husband or partner (including a mother's partner in a same-sex relationship) and
have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the beginning of the week when the baby's due and
will be fully involved in the child's upbringing and are taking the time off to support the mother or care for the baby.
This leave is paid if you:
earn at least the lower earnings limit (LEL) for National Insurance contributions.
You can take up to two weeks leave from work following the birth of a baby. You can take one week or two weeks in a row but not odd days or two separate weeks. Paternity leave must be taken within 56 days of the birth or, if the baby is born before the expected week, paternity leave can be taken any time from the actual date of birth up to 56 days from the date the baby would have been DUE. You cannot take longer for a multiple birth but you can take parental leave if you are entitled to it.
Ordinary Statutory Paternity Pay is paid for up to two consecutive weeks, depending on how long you choose to take Ordinary Paternity Leave for.
If you don't qualify for Ordinary Paternity Leave, your employer may be prepared to give you some time off or you could take paid holiday.
If you qualify for Ordinary Paternity Leave but not Ordinary Statutory Paternity Pay you may qualify for Income Support while on Ordinary Paternity Leave.
Additional Paternity Leave and Pay is for a maximum of 26 weeks. If your partner has returned to work, the leave can be taken between 20 weeks and one year after your child is born or placed for adoption. You may be entitled to receive Additional Statutory Paternity Pay during your partner's Statutory Maternity Pay, Maternity Allowance or Adoption Pay period.
Additional Statutory Paternity Pay is paid if you either:
take Additional Paternity Leave
are not working for the purposes of caring for your child, during your partner's Statutory Maternity Pay, Maternity Allowance or Statutory Adoption Pay period
To qualify for Additional Paternity Leave you must be an employee. For Additional Statutory Paternity Pay you must be an employed earner and both you and your partner must meet certain criteria.
If you do not qualify for Additional Paternity Leave or Pay you may be able to take annual leave or unpaid parental leave instead. You may also be able to request a more flexible working pattern.
If you're a parent of children under five, or disabled children under 18, you have a statutory right to take unpaid time off work to care for them.
Wherever possible, employers and employees should make their own agreements about how parental leave will work in a workplace. If this is not possible the following rules apply. Your workplace agreement cannot be less favourable than these.
You must give your employer 21 days’ notice of when you want to begin your parental leave. Your employer may ask for this to be in writing. As long as you qualify for parental leave and give your employer the correct notice you are able to take parental leave at any time.
You must take your leave in blocks of full weeks. A week is based on your usual working pattern. So if you only work Mondays and Tuesdays, a week would be two days or if you work Monday to Friday, a week would be five days. If your child has a disability, you can take time off in blocks of less than a week, so you could use parental leave for regular hospital visits. Each parent can't take more than four weeks' leave for any one child in a year.For these purposes, a year starts when you become eligible for parental leave. This is either when you have worked for your employer continuously for one year or when your child is born, if this date is later. Your employer can let you take a longer period of parental leave each year if they wish.
Statutory parental leave is unpaid, but check your employment contract, your employer might offer you pay. If you are on a low income, you might get Income Support. If you don't qualify for parental leave but need time off to care for your child, you could:
take paid holiday
ask your employer for unpaid time off
ask your employer about flexible working.
Time off for emergencies - all employees also have a right to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with certain emergencies involving their family or dependants. For example, a child falling ill, a breakdown in childcare arrangements or a problem at a child’s school. You do not have to give notice in advance for this emergency leave. But you will need to tell your employer as soon as you can what the problem is and when you expect to be back at work. (Also known as 'Time off for dependants').
Sometimes you may need to fit your job around the demands of your family, especially while your children are young, when they are coping with new circumstances or if you have a child with disabilities or particular needs.
You have the right to ask for flexible working but not the right to have it. Employers can reasonably decline your application where there is a legitimate business ground.
Here are some options to discuss with your employer:
working part-time or reduced hours
flexi-time - allowing you to choose your hours within set limits
career break - unpaid time away from your job
sabbatical - paid time away from your job
teleworking - working from home.
Every parent using childcare finds that there comes a time when emergency childcare could be needed. You could:
build up a list of possible childcarers your child knows well - perhaps childminders who are friends with your childminder
reserve some annual leave for emergencies
contact the Hampshire Family Information Service for help.
How your employer can help
There are some good reasons why more and more employers are looking at their employees’ childcare needs and trying to find ways to help.
Employers rely upon parents as part of their work force and they need you to be able to concentrate on your work without worrying about your children while you are there. Parents with safe, secure, high quality childcare arrangements that they can afford are:
less likely to be worrying about their children while they work
more likely to come back to work after maternity leave
more likely to stay in work as their children grow up.
The Government’s National Childcare Strategies for Scotland and England encourage employers to get involved in childcare and help their employees out.
What could my employer do?
Any childcare help that your employer offers is likely to be part of a range of work-life balance policies designed to help you balance your work with the rest of your life.
Your employer must provide you with:
maternity leave of at least 18 weeks
extended maternity leave of up to 52 weeks (1 year)
unpaid parental leave
the right to limit your working hours to less than 48 hours per week
4 weeks’ paid annual leave
the right to rest breaks.
Your employer could provide you with:
flexible work options like term-time work, flexi-hours, part-time work or jobsharer
leave options, like extended maternity leave or paternity leave for fathers around the time babies are born.
What kind of childcare help could be offered?
Childcare help could include:
childcare information to help you find out more about your options
contribution to childcare costs, through childcare allowances or Childcare Vouchers
provision of childcare services for employees, which could be a play scheme or a nursery or a childminding network, often run in partnership with other employers or local authorities.
What if my employer is not able to help with childcare?
If your employer does not offer help now, they may be keen to look at what you need and listen to your views, so it is worth discussing options with them.
Contact the Hampshire Family Information Team for help in searching for local childcare services and guidance regarding schemes to help with childcare costs.
For information on financial support to help working parents with the cost of childcare visit our financial support information pages: