Letter explaining the right to take ordinary parental leave
Author: Ursula Patel
When to use this model ordinary parental leave letter
Use this model letter to explain "ordinary" parental leave rights to an employee who is the parent of a new baby or newly adopted child.
Dear [ ]
Congratulations on [the birth of your baby/your recent adoption of a child]. I am pleased to inform you that, as you have completed one year's continuous service with the organisation, you are eligible to take ordinary parental leave. "Ordinary parental leave" should not be confused with shared parental leave, which enables you to end your [maternity/adoption] leave [and pay] at a future date, and share the untaken balance of leave with your partner. [The organisation provides a separate policy on shared parental leave.]
You are entitled to take up to 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave in respect of your child. The parental leave can be taken until your child's 18th birthday.
Parental leave must be taken in blocks of one week only, and no more than four weeks' parental leave may be taken in any one year. If your child is disabled, however, you may take parental leave one day at a time.
You must provide the organisation with at least 21 days' notice of the date you intend your parental leave to start and how much leave you intend to take.
You should note that the organisation has the right to postpone a request for parental leave for up to six months where your absence would cause substantial disruption or harm to the organisation.
Details of the procedure for exercising your right to parental leave and a form for requesting parental leave are available from [details of where your organisation's ordinary parental leave policy and form are located].
How to use this document
This is an example document and should be adapted to suit your circumstances.
Law relating to this document
Leading statutory authority
Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3312)
Parental Leave (EU Directive) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/283)
From 5 April 2015, the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 are amended to increase the child age limit on "ordinary" parental leave from five years to 18 years. Ordinary parental leave now provides each parent with the right to up to 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave for each child under 18.
Ordinary parental leave is a legal entitlement for both men and women. It is a period of unpaid leave for employees who are the parents of children aged under 18. It should not be confused with shared parental leave, which applies in relation to babies due on or after 5 April 2015 or children placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015, or who enter Great Britain on or after that date if adopted from overseas. Shared parental leave allows mothers or adopters who meet the eligibility requirements to bring their maternity or adoption leave to an end and choose to take shared parental leave with their partner, who must also meet the relevant eligibility requirements.
An employee is entitled to ordinary parental leave in respect of any individual child. In the case of multiple births or the adoption of more than one child as part of the same placement, the employee has the right to take ordinary parental leave in respect of each child.
Unless an employee's contract specifies otherwise, the maximum amount of ordinary parental leave that may be taken in any one year in respect of a child is four weeks. Ordinary parental leave may not be taken in blocks of less than one week, except where the child is disabled, in which case it may be taken one day at a time.
Where no agreement has been set up with the workforce in relation to parental leave, the statutory "fallback scheme" will automatically apply. The rules on length of parental leave, required notice and postponement of leave set out above are the rules under the fallback scheme.
Relevant case law
Rodway v South Central Trains Ltd  IRLR 583 CA. The Court of Appeal upheld the Employment Appeal Tribunal's decision that the minimum amount of parental leave an employee was entitled to take under the default parental leave provisions was one week. The default provisions in respect of parental leave, set out in sch.2 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 state that "an employee may not take parental leave in a period other than the period which constitutes a week's leave for him . . . or a multiple of that period". The phrase "in a period" was held to mean "for a period" not "during a period", and the minimum period of leave that the employee could take as parental leave was the period that for him constituted a week.
Employers and employees are free to agree their own more generous ordinary parental leave procedures. The wording of this document assumes that no workforce or collective agreement is in place with regard to the taking of ordinary parental leave and that the minimum statutory "fallback" scheme therefore applies.