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.

Leave must be taken in blocks of a week, (unless the child is disabled, in which case leave can be taken in blocks of less than one week – including one day) for up to four weeks per year.

The leave is unpaid unless your employment contract states otherwise, and your employer can insist that you give 21 days’ notice of your intention to take leave. Your leave entitlement is per child, so if you have more than one child who matches the criteria above, you are entitled to more leave.

If you are returning from parental leave of four weeks or less, then you have the right to return to your original job. In other cases, if your original job is no longer available, then you are entitled to a similar job with at least the same status and conditions.

Some employers will provide a better entitlement than the legal minimum, including allowing employees to take parental leave in longer or shorter blocks and paying for part or all of your parental leave, so you should check your terms and conditions.

In workplaces where a union is recognised, improvements on the basic statutory rights to parental leave have often been negotiated by the union, including pay for some or all of the leave, through the process known as collective bargaining. Use our Union Finder tool to research the benefits of joining a union and to find the union most likely to be suited to you.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.