Four family friendly policies every organisation should have

The rights that employers should have in place in relation to employees’ family situations under the Employment Rights Act 1996:

Maternity leave

Pregnant employees have the right to take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave, made up of ordinary maternity leave (OML) for the first 26 weeks and additional maternity leave (AML) for a further 26 weeks. Following birth, the first two weeks are made up of compulsory maternity leave which must be taken immediately following the birth of a child.

Maternity leave can commence at any time from 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth (EWC). The employee must notify their employer that they wish to take maternity leave before the end of the 15th week before the EWC.

Provided the employee has been employed for at least 26 continuous weeks as at the fifteenth week before the EWC, they will be entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks and the remaining 13 weeks will be unpaid.

Pregnant employees and those on maternity leave benefit from enhanced employment protections, such as the right to not be dismissed due to their pregnancy or because they plan to take maternity leave.  Treating an employee who is pregnant or on maternity leave unfavourably can amount to discrimination as both are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.

Adoption leave

When an employee adopts a child, or has a child through surrogacy, they have the right to take adoption leave. This allows the adopter to take up to 52 weeks of adoption leave, made up of 26 weeks of ordinary adoption leave (OAL) followed by 26 weeks of additional adoption leave (AAL).  If a couple adopts or has a child through a surrogate, only one person is able to take adoption leave.

The adopter must tell their employer of their intention to take adoption leave no more than seven days’ after they were informed by the adoption agency that they have been matched with a child.  The employee can commence adoption leave 14 days before the date they are expected to be placed with the child, if that placement fails then the adopter must return to work 8 weeks after the placement ends.

Like SMP, an employee with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service ending with the week in which the employee was notified of the match with the child, is entitled to up to 39 weeks of statutory adoption pay (SAP) and the remaining 13 weeks will be unpaid.

Paternity leave

Employees who are the child’s biological father, spouse, civil partner or partner of the mother or adopter, are entitled to take either one or two consecutive weeks’ paternity leave within 56 days of a child being born or adopted.

To benefit from the right to paternity leave, the employee must have at least 26 continuous weeks’ service with their employer, ending with the week immediately prior to the 14th week before the EWC or in cases of adoption, ending with the week in which the child’s adopter is notified they have been matched with a child.

Shared parental leave

Shared parental leave (SPL) allows an employee who is entitled to take maternity or adoption leave to share the remainder of their leave with their partner.

The first two weeks of maternity leave are classed as compulsory maternity leave and have to be taken by a mother who has given birth, thereby leaving 50 weeks of maternity leave and 37 weeks SMP which can be shared with their partner. Any OML, AML or SMP already taken will be deducted from the remaining 50 and 37 weeks’ respectively.

SPL can be taken in blocks separated by periods of work, or taken all in one go. Both parents can be off work together or stagger the leave and pay over the 50 weeks.

To be entitled to take SPL and shared parental pay, the employee must share responsibility for raising the child, have been continuously employed by their employer for at least 26 continuous weeks by the end of the 15th week before EWC and earn on average at least £123 per week. 

At least eight weeks’ notice must be given by the employee of their intention to take SPL.

This article first appeared on the People Management website on 19 May 2023.

For employment advice, please contact a member of our multi-award winning Employment Team on 0333 323 5292.



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