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Family related employment matters

Q-

My partner is due on 21st January and I want to take paternity leave, how much notice do I need to give?

A

The periods of notice required for Paternity Leave and Statutory Paternity Pay are slightly different and are detailed below.  

To qualify for paternity leave, an employee must tell his employer that he intends to take paternity leave by the end of the fifteenth week before the week (the qualifying week) the baby is due or; if this isn’t possible, as soon as is reasonably practicable.  To qualify for Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP), an employee must tell his employer that he wants to get SPP at least 28 days beforehand.  Where an employee is entitled to both pay and leave, the notice given for leave by the fifteenth week before the week the baby is due can count for pay as well.  Further information on Paternity Rights is available in nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo.(opens new window)

If our answer or publications do not provide you with enough information please contact the Agency's Head Office: 028 9032 1442 - or our Regional Office: 028 7126 9639.

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Q

I started a new job 2 months ago and have just found out I am pregnant, but am not sure whether I am entitled to any maternity pay or leave because I haven’t been there very long, can you advise me of my rights?

A

All employees are entitled to 52 weeks Maternity Leave regardless of their length of service.  The 52 weeks is made up of 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks Additional Maternity Leave.  There are however, a few qualifying conditions for Statutory Maternity Pay.  These are:

  • You must have worked for your employer for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks ending with the qualifying week – that is, the fifteenth week before childbirth; and
  • Your average weekly earnings in the eight weeks up to and including the qualifying week (or the equivalent period if they are paid monthly) have been at least equal to the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance contributions (which is currently £109.00 , effective from 6th April 2013).  

Individuals who do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay may be entitled to Maternity Allowance and further information on this is available at Maternity Allowance(opens new window)

Further information on Maternity Rights is available in nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo.(opens new window)

If our answer or publications do not provide you with enough information please contact the Agency's Head Office: 028 9032 1442 - or our Regional Office: 028 7126 9639.

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Q

When do I need to tell my employer that I am pregnant?

A

The earliest that you are legally required to inform your employer of your pregnancy, and your intention to take maternity leave is the end of the fifteenth week before your baby is due.  However, there may be circumstances where it is beneficial for an employee to inform her employer of her pregnancy, for example, where the role is physically intensive or involves working with hazardous materials, an earlier notification can allow an employer to carry out a risk assessment at an earlier stage.

Further information on Maternity Rights is available in nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo.(opens new window)

If our answer or publications do not provide you with enough information please contact the Agency's Head Office: 028 9032 1442 - or our Regional Office: 028 7126 9639.

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Q

My aunt died quite recently and my employer said I wasn’t entitled to any bereavement leave; is this right?

A

There is no legal right to paid bereavement leave other than that which is agreed between the employer and employee in the contract of employment. However, employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with  unexpected or sudden emergencies which can include the death of a dependant.  When a dependant dies, an employee can take time off to make funeral arrangements, as well as to attend a funeral. A dependant is defined as the husband, wife, child or parent of the employee. It also includes someone who lives in the same household as the employee, for example, this could be a partner or an elderly aunt or grandparent who lives in the household. It does not include tenants or boarders living in the family home, or someone who lives in the household as an employee, such as a live-in housekeeper.

Further information on the right to time off in these circumstances is available in nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)

If our answer or publications do not provide you with enough information please contact the Agency's Head Office: 028 9032 1442 - or our Regional Office: 028 7126 9639.

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Q

An employee has recently told us that she believes she is entitled to take the summer off on Parental leave – is she right?

A

The right to take Parental Leave was introduced in 1999 and entitles employees with one year’s service to a total of 13 weeks unpaid leave for each child up to the child’s fifth birthday (no more than 4 weeks can be taken each year).  The Regulations permit parents of a disabled child to 18 weeks unpaid leave up to the child’s 18th birthday.  Parental leave is a right to take time off work to look after a child or make arrangements for a child’s welfare, e.g.

  • to spend more time with the child in early years;
  • to accompany a child during a stay in hospital;
  • checking out new schools;
  • settling the child into new childcare arrangements

An employee must give their employer at least 21 days notice of their intention to take parental leave. If the employer feels that the employee’s absence would unduly disrupt the business then he can postpone the leave for up to 6 months.  Therefore while an employee is entitled to request parental leave at a time they feel is most convenient to them (for example the summer) an employer is not obliged to agree to the requested leave.  However, they must permit the employee to take the leave at another time.  The notice provisions described here represent the Fall Back Scheme detailed within the regulations; however alternative arrangements for taking leave can be agreed through a workforce or collective agreement.

Further information on parental leave rights is available in nidirect (opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window)

If our answer or publications do not provide you with enough information please contact the Agency's Head Office: 028 9032 1442 - or our Regional Office: 028 7126 9639.

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Q

I have decided not to return to work after my maternity leave, but am concerned if I don’t go back I will have to pay back my statutory maternity pay. Can you advise me if this is the case?

A

Employees who qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay are not required to pay it back if their employment comes to an end either before the end or at the end of the maternity leave period.  

However, employers that provide enhanced maternity benefits in addition to Statutory Maternity Pay may do so conditional upon an employee returning to work for a specified period of time following the maternity leave.

Further information on Maternity Rights is available in nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo.(opens new window)

If our answer or publications do not provide you with enough information please contact the Agency's Head Office: 028 9032 1442 - or our Regional Office: 028 7126 9639.

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Q

An employee of ours has indicated that she intends to work part time when she returns from maternity leave, but it doesn’t really suit her role or our needs, is she automatically entitled to part time hours?

A

No, but employees who have children under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child is disabled) and have 26 weeks service are entitled to make a request for a flexible working pattern (which could include a part time arrangement) and have this given due consideration by their employer.  In addition, from April 2007 the right to request a flexible working pattern applies to employees who are carers of adults.  There is a framework within which the request should be considered and information on this is available in nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo.(opens new window). The flexible working regulations outline some situations where an employer may refuse a request, for example, where the working pattern would,

  • Create a burden of additional costs;
  • Have a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer  demands/quality/performance ;
  • There is an inability to reorganise work among existing staff or  recruit additional staff;
  • There is an insufficiency of work when employee proposes to work; or
  • There are planned structural changes.

However it is recommended that an employer and employee try to reach a compromise that is acceptable to all to enable an employee to achieve a work/life balance and prevent an employer from losing a valuable employee.  

If our answer or publications do not provide you with enough information please contact the Agency's Head Office: 028 9032 1442 - or our Regional Office: 028 7126 9639.

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Q

My mother has recently become ill and I find I need to spend more and more time caring for her. Can I ask my employer for a flexible working pattern?

A

From April 2007 employees who are carers of adults, for example, their spouse, partner, civil partner, near relative or an adult living at the same address are entitled to make a request for a flexible working pattern to enable them to fulfil their caring responsibilities.   Their employer must give the request due consideration.  Some examples of a flexible working pattern include, Part-time working, Flexi-time, Staggered hours, Compressed working hours, Job sharing, Shift working, Working from home and Career breaks.

There is a framework within which the request should be considered and information on this is available iin nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo.(opens new window).

If our answer or publications do not provide you with enough information please contact the Agency's Head Office: 028 9032 1442 - or our Regional Office: 028 7126 9639.

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Q

I want to take additional paternity leave.  Can I take this leave at the same time as the mother of my child?

A

For an employee to be eligible for additional paternity leave the child’s mother must have been entitled to maternity leave, maternity pay/maternity allowance and have returned to the workplace.  The mother will be deemed to have returned to the workplace if her maternity leave period has come to an end and she is no longer receiving maternity pay/maternity allowance.  The mother therefore may not have physically returned to the workplace, for example, she may be on a period of annual leave.  

Additional paternity leave can start any time from 20 weeks after the child is born and must have finished by the child’s first birthday.  The period of leave taken is a minimum of 2 weeks and a maximum of 26 continuous weeks.

Further information on the right to additional paternity leave can be found at nidirect(opens new window) and nibusinessinfo(opens new window) links

If our answer or publications do not provide you with enough information please contact the Agency's Head Office: 028 9032 1442 - or our Regional Office: 028 7126 9639.