Maternity, paternity and parental leave all exist to help parents to care for their children but they are very different employee entitlements.
Maternity leave is only for biological mothers. It is specifically designed to help a woman to cope with the latter stages of pregnancy, recuperate after the birth and care for and feed her newborn baby.
Mothers are entitled to take maternity leave without any minimum service with their employer. Maternity leave is 52 weeks which is made up of 39 weeks’ ordinary leave and 13 weeks additional leave, the latter is unpaid.
However, maternity pay is only available if you have worked for your employer for 26 continuous weeks by the 15th week before the expected date of the birth of the baby.
Mothers are entitled to up to 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay. The first six weeks is paid at 90% of your salary and after that you will receive £148.68 per week (current rate), although some employer schemes pay more than this.
Paternity leave may be taken by a baby’s father, the mother’s partner, the child’s adopter or the intended parent if you are having a baby through surrogacy.
Up to two weeks’ paid leave may be taken if you have worked for your employer for 26 continuous weeks before the 15th week before the birth of the baby.
The statutory weekly rate of paternity pay is currently £148.68 or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
Paternity leave must be taken within 56 days of the birth and as one or two (consecutive weeks), not individual days.
Parental leave can be taken by both mums and dads, regardless of whether they are biological or adoptive parents and is unpaid.
If a parent has worked for their employer for at least 12 months they are entitled to take 18 weeks of parental leave for each child up to their 18th birthday, limited to four weeks per year for each child and taken in one-week blocks (unless the child is disabled). The entitlement is overall and does not restart with a new employer.
Employers cannot refuse to allow the time off, but they can postpone it if business need requires.
There have been a number of cases where the differences in these entitlements have led male employees to claim sex discrimination.
In one case a technology firm worker insisted he should be paid the same rate as mothers on statutory maternity leave and in another a male police officer claimed it was unfair that he was only entitled to shared parental leave paid at the statutory rate, while female officers on maternity leave got full pay for the same period. Both employees were unsuccessful with their claims.
The fact is that the different types of leave are provided for different purposes and, therefore, having different provision for a woman who has undergone the physical demands of giving birth is completely reasonable.
For advice about maternity, paternity or parental leave email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01782 205000.