Parental leave

Parental leave allows working parents the right to take unpaid time off work to look after a child or make arrangements for their welfare. It can help you spend more time with your child and balance your work and family commitments.

Qualifying for parental leave

If you have a child aged under 18, you may have the right to parental leave. To qualify, you must be an employee and have at least one year's continuous service where you work.

You must also be the parent:

  • named on the child's birth certificate
  • named on the child's adoption certificate
  • with legal parental responsibility for a child under 18

If you're separated and don't live with your children, you have the right to parental leave if you have formal parental responsibility for the children.

Parents who don't qualify for parental leave

If you are self-employed, an agency worker or contractor, you aren't entitled to parental leave.

Foster parents don't have rights to parental leave but may be able to ask for a flexible working pattern.

Evidence you qualify for parental leave

Your employer can ask for evidence you're entitled to parental leave. This could be:

How much parental leave you can take

Each parent can take 18 weeks' parental leave for each child up to their 18th birthday.

If your child is adopted, each parent can take 18 weeks' parental leave. You can take this until your child's 18th birthday.

Parental leave is an individual right. You cannot transfer the leave between parents. For example a father cannot take ten weeks and the mother take 26 weeks.

Pay during parental leave

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.

Your employer's parental leave scheme

Check your employment contract or staff handbook for your employer's parental leave scheme. Your employer may have extended parental leave to include other workers including:

  • foster carers
  • grandparents
  • employees who have worked there less than a year

Time off that's not parental leave

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

If there's an emergency and you need to take time off at short notice:

  • your employer may let you take emergency leave
  • you may have the right to take time off to arrange care

Time off for dependants

All employees have a right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with certain emergencies involving people they care for. This is 'time off for dependants'. 

There is no qualifying period. You can take this leave for child or adult care responsibilities.

Deciding to take parental leave

Parental leave is time to care for your child. This means looking after their welfare and could include making arrangements for the good of your child.

Caring for a child doesn't mean being with the child 24 hours a day. You can parental leave to spend more time with your child.  You can take parental leave: 

  • when your maternity, paternity or adoption leave ends
  • to spend more time with your child in their early years
  • to have time with your child when they're in hospital
  • to see new schools
  • to help your child adjust to new childcare
  • to allow your family to spend more time together, for example, taking your child to stay with grandparents

You can take parental leave immediately after your maternity, paternity or adoption leave providing you give the right notice.

If your employer doesn't allow parental leave

If you have the right to take parental leave and are refused, ask your employer about the reasons. If you have an employee representative (for example, a trade union rep), they may be able to help. If this doesn't work, you may need to complain using your employer's internal grievance procedure.

More useful links

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.