Skip to content

Employee leave entitlements

Taking time off work can be stressful, especially with complex rules in place. But support is out there. From parental to sick leave, explore this helpful guide to understand your rights and help manage your wellbeing.

Exploring different kinds of leave

Understand the basics of parental and sick leave, your rights and benefits, and how to approach a return to work.

Parental leave is an employee benefit allowing parents time away from work to care for their children. From maternal, to paternal or adoption, parental leave will differ from one person to the next as it depends on things like:

  • Type of employment
  • How long you’ve been there
  • What your contract and policies say

Explore helpful information from Citizens Advice to find out what you may be entitled to.

Taking time off for illness can be stressful. Luckily, there are rights and policies in place so that you can take time off to focus on your mental or physical health. This is called sick leave.

For parental leave:

  • If you or your partner is pregnant, you don’t have a legal obligation to tell your employer
  • But to take maternity or paternity leave, you’ll need to tell them by the end of the 15th week before your baby’s due date

For adoption leave:

  • You’ll need to tell them within seven days of being matched with a child

For sick leave:

  • If you’re ill for a few days or less, your employer will typically handle your absence
  • If you’re ill for more than seven days, you’ll need to give proof, usually in the form of a doctor’s note

If you’re pregnant or expecting a baby, extra rights exist at work to support your wellbeing before and after the baby’s born. These include:

  • Maternity pay and leave (just check your employment conditions to see if you’re eligible)
  • Protection from health and safety risks during pregnancy
  • Protection from discrimination because of your pregnancy
  • Paid time off for necessary appointments and classes

If you’re an expectant parent or having a baby through surrogacy:

  • Unpaid time off for specific appointments, including two ante-natal appointments (employer may offer paid leave)
  • You may also be eligible for paternity pay and leave, so check with your employer

During maternity, paternity, or shared parental leave, you’re still entitled to the same work rights, including:

  • Paid holidays
  • Protection from unfair dismissal
  • Pension payments and rights during your statutory pay period
  • Other employee benefits like health insurance or gym discounts

Whilst most employers will offer paid sick leave to support employees’ wellbeing, differing policies will dictate how much it is, and how long it lasts for. If you’re off work for a long time, you’ll likely be reduced to half-pay, and then no pay.

Stay ahead by checking up on your workplace policies – ask your line manager or HR for more information.

Whilst everyone’s situations are personal, it’s good to know how much time you can take off for parental and sick leave. You’ll always be entitled to statutory days, but your employer may be more flexible.

For parental leave:

  • Statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks
  • You must take two weeks’ leave after your baby is born
  • Your employer will need to know you’re pregnant no later than the 15th week before your baby is due
  • The earliest you can start is 11 weeks before the baby arrives
  • You’ll need to give eight weeks’ notice if you decide to come back earlier or later than 52 weeks
  • You can also take 18 week’ unpaid parental leave for each child until they turn 18, to support their wellbeing or balance childcare

For paternity leave:

  • Working dads or partners of pregnant women receive one or two weeks’ paid paternity leave
  • You must have had at least 26 weeks’ employment by the end of the 15th week before the due date, or by the time your adoption is approved

For shared parental leave:

  • You and your partner may be able to get shared parental leave from your employers
  • If you’re eligible, you can both share up to 50 weeks’ leave and up to 37 weeks’ pay
  • To qualify, you must have had at least 26 weeks’ employment by the end of the 15th week before the due date, or by the time your adoption is approved

For adoption leave:

  • You or your partner are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ adoption leave
  • Only one of you can take adoption leave, but the other can take paternity leave, or you can both take shared parental leave
  • Usually there’s no minimum amount of time you must have worked for your employer
  • For overseas adoptions, you must have had at least 26 weeks’employment by the ‘matching week’. This applies to matches through an adoption agency, but not for private adoptions

For sick leave:

  • You may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) depending on your earnings and situation
  • Your employer may also offer ‘Contractual Sick Pay’ (CSP). You can get CSP and SSP at the same time
  • You can’t get sick pay if you’re already receiving parental leave pay. Explore Citizens Advice for more helpful information

Taking time off work may impact your financial wellbeing. Whether it’s a new baby or an illness, it’s important to plan financially for any changes. Explore the different statutory options below to make sure you know what you’re entitled to.

For parental leave:

  • Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for up to 39 weeks. You get 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax for the first six weeks, and £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks
  • Statutory Paternity Pay is usually paid for one or two weeks. You get £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower)
  • Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and statutory shared parental pay (ShPP) is where you share up to 50 weeks of leave, and up to 37 weeks of pay between you. You need to share the pay and leave in the first year after your child is born or placed with your family. You get £172.48 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower)
  • With Statutory Adoption Pay, you get 90% of your gross average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, and £172.48 a week or 90% of your gross average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks
  • Maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay are all taxable, so remember that when you’re working out your income

For sick leave:

  • You can’t get Statutory Sick Pay for the first 3 days, but after that you can get £109.40 a week for up to 28 weeks.

From HR or payroll issues, to simple human error. Salary mistakes can happen, either through overpayments or deductions:

  • Overpayments happen when your employer pays you too much money in your weekly or monthly pay
  • Deductions are when your employer reduces your pay based on various different factors. These include contract agreements, overpayments, income tax, court orders or strikes

If you’ve opened your payslip and the amount doesn’t match with what you’re expecting, speak to your line manager or HR to find out what may have happened. They’ll either be able to correct a mistake or explain why an overpayment or deduction has happened.

Returning to work can feel daunting, especially if you’ve been away for quite some time. It’s completely normal to feel unsure. The key is to weigh up your options so whatever you decide will support your mental, physical and financial wellbeing. Let’s take a closer look.

Deciding to go back:

  • For parental leave, your employer will assume you’ll be away for a year unless you tell them otherwise. If you change your mind, give them at least eight weeks’ notice
  • Think about easing back in. From part-time work to flexible hours, ask your line manager or HR for support. Just remember that you’ll need to have worked for them for at least 26 weeks, and you can’t have made another request in the last 12 months

Deciding not to go back:

  • If you decide not to go back after having a baby, read through your contract to find your notice period
  • If you were on Enhanced Maternity Pay, you may also need to pay back the difference between that and your statutory pay. Check your employee handbook for more information
  • Make sure you get paid for any holiday you have left, including the time you built up while you were away
  • Your wellbeing may mean you’re not able to return. And that’s OK. There are support options out there. From career change advice, to long-term benefits

Discrimination at work is rare these days, but it can happen. If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against, because of your pregnancy or sick leave, you can make a claim to an employment tribunal.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked for your employer. Chat to your line manager or HR department first, and if this doesn’t work, get free and impartial advice from ACAS.

The help the Bank Workers Charity gave me during an incredibly tough part of my life, really did make such a huge difference. I feel a lot more in control, both at home and at work, and I’m a lot more optimistic about the future

– Jack, our client

Steps to stay ahead

Follow the steps below to help manage your wellbeing, finances and return to work if you’ve been away on parental or sick leave.

There are various rights and benefits designed to support you when you’re on parental or sick leave.

For parental leave:

  • All pregnant women get free prescriptions and dental treatment
  • Pregnant employees are legally entitled to paid time off to attend relaxation classes, hospital clinics and appointments with their GP
  • Working Families has a helpful weekly guide to maternity rights and benefits

For sick leave:

  • You may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Housing Benefit, Universal Credit, Council Tax support, or Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Explore your options with our benefits and grants guide

You can also try our helpful benefits calculator to see what you may be entitled to. And remember, benefits are designed to help us when we need it.

Stay up to date with your policies and packages at work to make sure you’re accessing the right kind of support for your needs.

For parental leave:

  • Check your maternity or paternity package to see what pay and benefits you’re entitled to or speak to your line manager or HR if you think your circumstances may be uncommon

For sick leave:

  • Ask your line manager to send you your contract and a copy of your employee handbook
  • Find out how long your employer will keep paying you, and how much of your usual pay you’ll receive
  • Check any relevant insurance you may hold such as mortgage payment protection insurance, to see if your policy will cover the cost of your mortgage repayments
  • If your bank has an occupational health team, speak to them for advice
  • Get impartial advice from Citizens Advice, ACAS or your union rep
  • If you’ve got a workplace pension, ask your pension provider if you’re entitled to any ill-health benefits, and you’re covered under any additional insurance schemes like income protection or critical illness

If you have a partner, or support from family members, agree who does what to help balance everyone’s wellbeing. Consider things like:

  • Drop-off and pick-up at childcare
  • Packing nappies, wipes and snacks
  • Packing lunches
  • Who’ll be the emergency contact
  • Back-up childcare options when anyone is sick
  • Chores like cleaning, cooking and food shopping

If you still need support:

  • Talk to other working parents to hear their experiences
  • Speak to your line manager or HR about employee-led networks, forums or parent groups
  • Join NCT’s new parent courses, explore the NHS for free antenatal classes, or visit your local children’s centre for free support for children under five

If you’re planning to return to work after having a baby, speak to your employer about ‘keeping in touch’ days:

  • You can choose to work up to 10 of these days during your maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave
  • They won’t affect your leave or pay, but you’ll both need to agree to them
  • They’re designed to ensure you don’t feel cut off from your role at work
  • They can also help you stay up to date, attend team events, and make returning to work feel less daunting

For parental leave:

Returning to work may feel overwhelming, but weighing up your options will help you decide if the change will be worth it for your overall wellbeing. Think about things like:

  • Childcare costs and logistics
  • What you or your partner will be earning
  • Costs of getting to and from work
  • Options for flexible working, reduced hours or different tasks
  • Support returning to work, including access to work grants

Visit Citizens Advice for more helpful advice.

For sick leave:

MoneyHelper may be able to help if you’re thinking about early retirement. But if you still have questions, we’re just a phone call away.

Choosing childcare can be a challenge, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. It can be expensive and competitive. But getting it right early on will help support your return to work.

If you’re eligible for Universal Credit, you may be able to claim back up to 85% of your childcare costs. Read our guide on caring to find out what may be available to you.

Speak to your lender about a payment break if you think you’ll be on a lower income. They may extend the payment periods or offer a temporary payment holiday or loan extension, meaning smaller payments over a longer time. Explore useful advice from our partner StepChange on negotiating with lenders.

If you’ve been overpaid by your employer, try to act quickly by following these simple steps:

  • Tell your line manager or HR as soon as you can
  • Arrange a meeting so they can explain the situation
  • Check your employment contract or written policy for overpayment details
  • If you’ve been overpaid, try to agree to a fair repayment schedule to help manage your financial wellbeing. Remember, your employer can’t pay you less than the national minimum wage on average per hour for your pay period (usually a week or month)
  • Usually, employers deduct overpaid amounts over an equal duration. So, if you received more money for three months, it would take the same time to pay it back

If you’ve had money taken from your salary, but you didn’t know it was going to happen, it’s important to get advice on the steps you can take:

  • Get independent advice from ACAS or your union rep
  • Get in touch to talk things through. Remember, we’ll never speak to your employer or pass on any information you give us

Lessen the impact of big life changes with small steps to support your mental and physical wellbeing whilst you’re on leave:

If you still have questions, or don’t think you’re being treated fairly, support is within reach:

  • Get in touch with Working Families for help balancing work and home life
  • Speak to ACAS or your union rep for advice on redundancy whilst on parental or sick leave
  • Or if you just need someone to talk to, give us a call and let’s chat things through
Illustration depicting a mental health matters.

Sign up to our quarterly eNewsletter


Be the first to learn about and have access to our new wellbeing support services to ensure your mental and physical health remain a top priority.