Parental leave means parents can take time off to spend with their family. The legislation gives basic rights and allows employers to draft their own policies within its framework. If your employer does not have a policy in place, the regulations contain a fallback policy.
Who is covered?
Parents/adopters entitled to parental leave will have children born/placed for adoption on or after 15 December 1999 and have one year's service by the time they wish to take the leave.
What is parental leave?
Parental leave must be used to care for a child. This can include things like spending time with the child during his/her early years, staying with the child while he/she is in hospital, or settling a child into new childcare arrangements.
How much time off can I take and when can leave be taken?
Each parent is entitled to take 13 weeks' parental leave for each child. The fallback policy allows for a maximum of four weeks to be taken in any one year.
Parents of children born on or after 15 December 1999 can take parental leave up to the fifth birthday of their child. Adoptive parents of children placed on or after 15 December 1999 can take parental leave up to the fifth anniversary of the date of placement (or the child's 18th birthday, if this is earlier).
Notice provisions and pay
There are no notice provisions in legislation, but twenty one days' notice is required under the fallback scheme. The right to take parental leave does not include an entitlement to pay, but your employer has the discretion to award it.
Parents of disabled children who meet the qualifying criteria above can take 18 weeks' parental leave for each disabled child. This leave can be taken up until the child's 18th birthday and may be taken in multiples of single days.
The rules for child tax credit and working tax credit changed in April 2012. In summary:
- the income limit for child tax credit has gone down, to £26,000 for someone with one child and £32,000 for someone with two children
- the working hours necessary for couples to get working tax credit have increased, from 16 hours a week to 24 hours a week.
However, both payments will depend on your personal circumstances and income, and these limits do not apply in every case. ATL members are advised to check the HMRC website for more information.
Since 1 September 2006 teachers in maintained schools and nurseries can participate in salary sacrifice schemes offered by their employers. Other employees have always had the right to participate in salary sacrifice schemes where offered by their employer.
The arrangements mean that teachers will now be able to take part of their pay as a childcare voucher instead of cash. This part of their salary will not be liable for tax or national insurance.
Where salary sacrifice arrangements are provided by employers, participation by teachers is voluntary. However, sacrificing salary for tax advantages can affect entitlement to other state benefits so individual teachers thinking of taking part will need to consider the possible consequences on their personal circumstances carefully.
Further information can be found in the ATL factsheet Childcare vouchers.
As a parent you may be entitled to receive the following benefits:
- child benefit - payable tax-free to all mothers, at different weekly rates for the only or eldest child (£20.30 at July 2012) and other children (£13.40 at July 2012). These rates are fixed until April 2014.
- sick pay and incapacity benefit - if you are too ill to return to work
- Sure Start Maternity Grant. You may be eligible if you or your partner are receiving income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, pension credit, or higher forms of child or working tax credit.
Further details on the above benefits are available from your local office of the Department for Work and Pensions, Benefits Agency or JobcentrePlus.
Child trust fund
The Child Trust Fund (CTF) was introduced as a long-term savings and investment account for children born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011.
The Government announced on 24 May 2010 that it intends to reduce, and then stop, Child Trust payments. The changes will need legislation to be passed by Parliament. This means that the current CTF rules will apply until then.
Under current rules, children born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011 could qualify for a voucher for between £50 and £250 to open a child trust fund. The fund will not be accessible until the child reaches age 18 and can be contributed to by the child's family. Some families on a low income will be eligible to receive an extra £250.
Full details of the scheme can be found on the HM Revenue & Customs website.
ATL Trust Fund
The ATL Trust Fund, a registered charity, may be able to help if you are in financial hardship. Examples of how the fund has helped in the past include payments to those not entitled to receive any maternity pay, assistance with the costs of special equipment required after the birth of a child, or help towards the cost of travel to visit a child who has had to remain in hospital.
If you feel that the fund may be able to help you, please contact the fund administrator on 020 7930 6441.
Further education agreements
ATL and the national employers' body (the Association of Colleges) have agreed national guideline agreements which establish recommended minimum standards for colleges and FE institutions for paternity, parental and family purposes and dependants' leave.