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Supporting parents who request parental leave

Aside from the school run and taking children to appointments, there are a plethora of reasons that parents may need to take leave. It is important to understand what your employees are entitled to and how you can support them when they are dealing with a difficult situation.

Maternity/Paternity leave – will I still get paid for taking leave?

In short, yes. The current government guidelines state that statutory maternity leave is still 52 weeks with statutory pay being capped at 39 weeks – six weeks of that at 90% of your average weekly earnings. In comparison, fathers can take up to two weeks paternity leave at 90% of their earnings.

But how does this affect those that have been furloughed during lockdown?

Most businesses are now more flexible when it comes to maternity and more recently, paternity leave. However, things have looked very different over the last year, with employees working from home more and many being made redundant or choosing to leave their work.

Last year, the government announced that anyone who wanted to take maternity or paternity leave was still entitled to pay that was based on their usual earnings – calculated through someone’s average earnings over an 8-week assessment period. 

Unpaid parental leave

There may be other occasions when an employee asks to take leave. For example, to take a child to an appointment, issues within the school, going through a divorce or visiting family members.

Employees are entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid leave for each child up to the age of 18 ( This cannot be taken as more than four weeks at a time and should be approved by the employees’ Line Manager.

Bereavement – how you can support your employees at this most difficult time?

Losing your child is one of the most difficult things a parent will ever have to deal with in their life, so making sure you have the right policies and practices in place to support an employee dealing with bereavement is crucial to their wellbeing.

If an employee requests leave due to the death of their child, it must be handled with the utmost care and compassion. Parents have the right to two weeks of Bereavement Leave and Pay and as an employee, you should speak to your employer to give advanced notice. However, this may come out of the blue should something happen very suddenly, so it is important to keep regular communication between employer and employee to make sure there are plans in place.

Most importantly, do not pressure the employee to tell you anything they do not feel comfortable about as this is a very sensitive subject for them.

Above all else, it is crucial that employers regularly communicate with all employees so that their entitlement is made clear without confusion. By providing a safe space for the many challenges parents face, you are ensuring a productive workforce that can cope with absences when they occur. Should you need assistance with speaking to and supporting an employee, SFB Consulting is happy to help. Just call us on 01279 874676 to discuss further.