Parental rights at work
When you’re a new parent or you’re expecting a baby you have extra rights at work. You or your partner could be entitled to:
- maternity rights
- paternity leave and pay
- shared parental leave
- adoption leave and pay
- unpaid time off to look after your child
- come to antenatal appointments with your partner
You get all these rights in same-sex relationships as well as in opposite-sex relationships.
Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help with any of these rights.
Breastfeeding at work
If you’re breastfeeding or have given birth less than 26 weeks ago you have the same health and safety protection as when you were pregnant at work. Your employer has to assess the health and safety risks to you and either remove those risks or change your conditions so you aren’t exposed to them.
It might be sex discrimination if your employer doesn't let you breastfeed at work.
Maternity Action have more information on breastfeeding when you return to work.
If you’re a baby’s father or the mother’s partner you’re entitled to 1 or 2 weeks of paternity leave when you and your partner have a baby. You can also take paternity leave when you adopt a child.
You have to take paternity leave in a block of 1 or 2 weeks.
To qualify for paternity leave, you need to:
- have had the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date, or by the time you’re matched with a child for adoption
- be the biological father of the child, or be the partner of the baby's mother - you don’t have to be married
- be responsible for the child's upbringing and wish to take time off to care for the child or support the mother
- have given your employer the correct notice to take paternity leave
There are 2 extra rules if you’re adopting a child:
- you can’t already know the child - for example they can’t be your stepchild
- you can’t be taking adoption leave - if you and your partner are adopting, one of you can take adoption leave and the other paternity leave
If you’re entitled to paternity leave it’s likely you’ll be entitled to statutory paternity pay for the same days. To qualify, you must also:
- keep working for your employer up to the date of birth
- be earning an average of at least £113 a week
Statutory Paternity Pay is paid at the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay.
When you can take paternity leave
Your paternity leave can start on:
- the day the baby is born
- the day a child is placed with you for adoption
- a date after the birth or adoption that you agree in advance with your employer
If you’re agreeing a date with your employer, you’ll need to complete your leave within 56 of days of the birth or adoption.
Telling your employer about your paternity leave
You’ll need to give your employer notice that you want to take paternity leave. You should do this by 15 weeks before your baby’s due date, or within 7 days of being matched with a child for adoption.
When you give notice you’ll need to tell your employer:
- that you’re entitled to paternity leave and that you’re taking leave to support the mother or care for the child
- when the baby is due or the date of the birth (if you’re adopting, give the date you’re matched with your child or the date when the child is placed with you)
- when you’d like to start your paternity leave and pay
- whether you are taking 1 or 2 weeks of paternity leave
You can change when you want to take paternity leave - just give your employer 28 days' notice of the changed date.
More information about paternity leave
Shared parental leave
If you're expecting a baby or having a child placed with you for adoption, you can share your maternity leave and pay with your partner. You can share up to 50 weeks' leave and up to 37 weeks' pay.
To be eligible for shared parental leave, you must:
- share care of the child with your spouse, civil partner or joint adopter, the child's other parent, or your partner (if they live with you and the child)
- have had the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (or placement date)
- still be employed by your employer until the week before you take any shared parental leave
In the 66 weeks before the baby is due, your partner must:
- have been working for at least 26 weeks - these don’t have to be continuous
- have earned at least £30 a week on average in 13 of the 66 weeks
You'll be eligible for statutory shared parental pay if:
- you qualify for statutory maternity pay
- you qualify for statutory paternity pay and have a partner who qualifies for statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance
You can get more details of the shared parental leave scheme from GOV.UK.
Adoption leave and pay
If you’re a working parent who has been matched with a child for adoption or if you have had a child placed with you for adoption, you may be entitled to adoption leave. You need to be an employee, and you may need to give your employer proof of the adoption.
You only get these rights if you’ve been matched with a child through an adoption agency or, in the case of an overseas adoption, received official notification. You can’t take adoption leave after a private adoption.
Usually there is no minimum amount of time you must have worked for your employer. The exception is if you adopt a child from overseas. Then you’ll need to have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the week when you get official notification.
You or your partner are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ adoption leave. Only one of you can take adoption leave - the other can take paternity leave or shared parental leave. This includes same-sex couples.
Statutory adoption pay
If you can take adoption leave it’s likely you’ll also be entitled to statutory adoption pay.
This lasts for 39 weeks. For the first 6 weeks you’re paid 90% of your average gross weekly earnings. For the weeks after that you’re paid whichever is lower out of:
- 90% of your normal weekly earnings
- £140.98 a week
You may also be entitled to some adoption pay under your employment contract.
Telling your employer about your adoption leave
You must tell your employer that you want to take adoption leave - you should do this within 7 days of hearing that you’ve been matched with a child for adoption, or as soon as is practical after this. Tell your employer when you expect the child to be placed with you and when you want your statutory adoption leave to start.
Time off to look after your child
If you’ve worked for your employer for 1 year you have the right to unpaid time off work to look after your children.
You can take up to 18 weeks' unpaid leave before your child is 5. If your child is disabled you can up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave before your child is 18.
You can also take unpaid time off work to deal with unexpected problems - for example where childminding arrangements break down.
Coming to antenatal appointments with your partner
A pregnant woman has a right to paid time off to go to antenatal appointments. If you’re the mother’s partner you can also take time off work to go to 1 or 2 of these appointments - you don’t need to be married.
You can come to appointments with your partner from day 1 in your job, unless you’re an agency worker. If you work for an agency you’ll need to have spent 12 weeks in your current job.
You also get this right if you meet the conditions for, and intend to apply for, a parental order for a child born through a surrogacy arrangement.
Arranging time off with your employer
Your employer doesn’t have to pay you during time off for appointments. You can take up to 6.5 hours for each appointment, though your employer can give you longer.
You might need to sign something for your employer, confirming that you’re going with your partner to an appointment recommended by her doctor or midwife. Your employer can’t ask to see evidence of the appointment, as the paperwork is your partner’s private information.