Understanding what leave you’re entitled to when you go back to work isn’t easy. There are different types that are available to you as a parent too. Here’s the low down of what’s what.
How much holiday leave you have left depends on what you took before going on maternity.
The bottom line is you still accrue paid holiday during all of your Statutory Maternity Leave (SML). This still applies even if your employment contract says you are entitled to more than the statutory minimum.
If you want, you can add holiday leave to the beginning or end of your SML.
However, if your SML goes over two holiday years, it’s down to your employer to decide whether or not you’re able to carry over untaken holiday. You might want to take this at the beginning of your SML so you don’t risk losing it.
Finishing maternity leave
You should tell your employer if you’re taking the full 52 weeks of SML – even though they’ll probably assume you are!
But if you want to go back earlier (say, when your Statutory Maternity Pay ends), you have to give at least eight weeks’ notice. If you don't, your employer can insist that you don’t return until those eight weeks have passed.
If you decide you don’t want to return to work at all, you need to give your employer notice in the normal way as if you were still working there.
Parental leave is unpaid. You’re allowed to take up to four weeks’ parental leave at the end of your SML, without it affecting your right to return, or the actual job you return to.
If you take more than four weeks, they’re entitled to offer you alternative suitable work on the same terms and conditions.
Parental leave doesn’t have to follow straight after SML. You can take parental leave at a later time after you’ve returned to work. Parents can take up to 13 weeks' parental leave for each of their children up to their fifth birthday.
Family emergencies (Compassionate leave)
Ask your employer where they stand if you have a family emergency. They’re not allowed to penalise you for taking time off, providing the reasons are genuine!
So if your child falls ill or has a significant injury, you have the right to take time off work to deal with the emergency. The same applies if your childcare unexpectedly cancels on you, or the school asks you to come and get them.
You’re entitled to this regardless of how long you’ve worked there. Do tell them as soon as you can though – although this needn’t be in writing, and you don’t need to provide evidence for it.
In terms of how long you can take off, you’re allowed 'reasonable' time to deal with the emergency and make necessary arrangements. There's no set amount of time allowed, though a couple of days should cover it.
Your employer doesn't have to pay you for this time off, however. And it’s to be used in relation to a dependent – so the washing machine flooding or taking the cat to the vet don’t count!