Being a parent and holding down a job can be difficult at times but do you know your rights? Many mums and dads may not realise this but they are actually both entitled to more than four months of unpaid time off per child to look after them, according to the Working Families charity.
A study by Crossland, employment law specialists, has found that four out of 10 parents had no idea about this right to parental leave.
Here are some of the rights parents might be entitled to:
You should be able to get unpaid time off for childcare if you have worked somewhere for more than a year and give your employer at least 21 days' notice. The full entitlement is 18 weeks of leave per parent, per child, but it is unlikely you will be able to take it in one go.
Working Families says most parents will have to take it a week at a time, with four weeks allowed per child in any one year.
Time off for dependants
This is the right to a shorter period of urgent time off for your child, which parents may be able to use if their child is sick or childcare arrangements fall through. The right covers a "reasonable" amount of time off, which the charity says is usually limited to one or two days.
You have to let your employer know what’s happening and return to work as quickly as possible.
The right can also be used to care for others who depend on you in a crisis, such as a sick or elderly parent. This is a much more widely known right, with all female employees entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave.
However, it is also important to know what the law says about your return to work. If you go back after six months or less, you have the right to return to your old job on the same terms and conditions.
If you take more than six months of maternity leave, you can return to your old job unless it is "not reasonably practicable".
If your employer does say you cannot return to your old job, they are supposed to offer you a suitable alternative role with similar terms and conditions.
You can get statutory maternity pay (SMP), where you will initially be paid 90 per cent of your average earnings, if you worked for your employer prior to becoming pregnant and are still employed 15 weeks’ before the baby’s due date.
After six weeks, the pay may drop to whichever is lower – 90 per cent of your average earnings, or £140.98 a week - for another 33 weeks.
It usually starts when you take your maternity leave, and you have to give your employer the correct notice - but how long you have worked for them does not matter.
People who cannot get statutory maternity leave may be entitled to maternity allowance instead.
Self-employed and employed women can be eligible for this, based on your work record in the 66 weeks before the baby is due. But self-employed workers have to pay Class 2 National Insurance or be eligible for it.
To be eligible, dads need to be employees, have worked for an organisation continuously for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the baby’s due, and still be there at the time of birth.
Men can choose when to take their leave, from the child’s birth to at any point up to 56 days later, for one or two consecutive weeks.
Statutory paternity pay (SPP) is either £140.98 or 90 per cent of average earnings - whichever is lower.
Shared parental leave
This right gives dads the potential to take significantly more time off work to care for their children, but research suggests most are not making the most of shared parental leave. A parent needs to be an employee and their partner has to have worked recently to share their leave.
Mums have to take two initial weeks of compulsory maternity leave, but after that they can split the rest of the 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay between them and their partner. It is paid at the lowest of £140.98 or 90 per cent of average earnings.
Request flexible working
If you have worked somewhere for 26 weeks, you have the right to ask to work flexibly. Your employer does not actually have to give it to you - but they do have a duty to consider your request seriously.
They can only turn you down if they have a good business reason to do so, and they have to decide within three months.
A version of this article first appeared on the Liverpool Echo.