Parental Leave

Parental leave is unpaid. A parent is entitled to 18 weeks’ leave for each child and adopted child, up to their 18th birthday.

The limit on how much parental leave each parent can take in a year is 4 weeks for each child (unless the employer agrees otherwise).

Parental leave must be taken as whole weeks (eg 1 week or 2 weeks) rather than individual days, unless your employer agrees otherwise or if your child is disabled. You don’t have to take all the leave at once.

A ‘week’ equals the length of time an employee normally works over 7 days.

Example - If an employee works 3 days a week, one ‘week’ of parental leave equals 3 days. If an employee works irregular weeks the number of days in a ‘week’ is the total number of days they work a year divided by 52.


Parental Leave

Employers - 



Working parents have a number of employment rights which deal specifically with their parenting responsibilities. These include rights on maternity, adoption, paternity, parental leave, time off for dependants and right to request flexible working.

See Family Friendly Policies

Part-Time Workers

Part-time workers have the right not to be treated less favourably than comparable full-timers. This means they should:

  • receive the same rates of pay
  • not be excluded from training simply because they work part-time
  • receive a pro rata holiday entitlement to comparable full-timers
  • have any career break schemes, contractual maternity leave and parental leave made available to them in the same way as for full-time workers, and
  • not be treated less favourably when workers are selected for redundancy.


Part-Time work


Employing part-time workers

Paternity Leave

Employees who:

  • have or expect to have responsibility for the child's upbringing
  • are the biological father of the child or the mother's husband or partner and
  • have worked continuously for their employer for 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the baby is due or the end of the week in which the child's adopter is notified of being matched with the child can choose to take either one week or two consecutive weeks' paid paternity leave (not odd days).

Paternity leave must be completed:

  • within 56 days of the actual date of birth of the child, or
  • if the child is born early, within the period from the actual date of birth up to 56 days after the first day of the week in which the birth was expected.

Employees have the right to return to the same job after paternity leave. Most employees are entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) from their employers

Employees - Paternity rights in the workplace

Employers- Paternity leave and pay 


Pay is important to most of us. It doesn't just pay the bills - it can also have a big impact on the morale and productivity of the workforce. It is vital that organizations develop pay systems that are appropriate for them, that provide value for money, and that reward workers fairly for the work they perform.


See Wage Slips


Being paid and payslips


Issuing pay statements

Pay in Lieu of Notice (PILON)

A payment in lieu of notice is made in circumstances where an employee is not required to work their notice period but is paid a sum of money instead.  For such a practice to be lawful the contract of employment must expressly permit this, or, in the absence of a written clause, the employer and employee must agree to this.  Enforcement of a payment in lieu without the contractual right or agreement to do so may be viewed as a breach of contract.   In circumstances where such a payment is made the Effective Date of Termination is usually the last day worked, unless the employee is on a period of Gardening Leave – where they are paid as normal during the notice period, but not required to work it.  In this case the Effective Date of Termination is normally the date the notice period expires.  

See Notice Rights

Pension Arrangements

Employers are required to provide details of any pension arrangements or schemes that are applicable to the employee in the Written Statement of Employment Particulars, and, if there are no such arrangements state that.  Employers who have 5 or more employees must provide their employees with access to a Stakeholder Pension Scheme.  Guidance for employers on pension arrangements including Stakeholder Pensions is available from the link below.

Employers - Pensions

Auto enrolment

From 1 October 2012 large employers must automatically enrol certain members of their workforce into a pension scheme and will need to make a contribution towards it. This will apply to small and medium-sized businesses following in stages from spring 2013.

Even if an employer already offers pension arrangements for their workers, they still have some new obligations to meet.

The main things that an employer must do are:

  • provide a qualifying scheme for workers
  • automatically enrol all eligible jobholders onto the scheme
  • pay employer contribution for eligible jobholders to the scheme
  • tell all eligible jobholders that they have been automatically enrolled and that they have the right to opt out if they want to do so
  • register with the Pension Regulator and give them details of the qualifying scheme and the number of people that have automatically enrolled.

Read  more at The PensionRegulator

Personnel Records

All organizations, however large or small, need to keep certain records, some because the law requires them, and some for internal purposes. For instance, keeping records of hours worked by most workers (for the purposes of the implementation of the Working Time Regulations), and pay rates (for the Minimum Wage Act 1998, Income Tax and National Insurance obligations) will enable employers to monitor legislative compliance.  Every employer also needs to retain records of new workers who join the organisation, eg, their job title, pay etc. 

See ACAS Advisory booklet Personnel data and record keeping


Picketing is a way that employees who are taking Industrial Action in contemplation or furtherance of a Trade Dispute raise awareness of their action. It is not a form of Industrial Action itself and employees do not have a legal right to picket.  However, if carried out in accordance with certain principles peaceful picketing is viewed as a lawful activity.

See Industrial Action

DEL Code of Practice on Picketing

Piece Working

Piece working is a type of working arrangement where an individual is paid for the work that they produce, rather than the number of hours they have worked.  It is more commonly associated with manufacturing environments with pre-set targets.  Piece workers are entitled to receive at least the National Minimum Wage.

See Minimum Wage

Political funds – Trade Union

A Trade Union may set up a fund to allocate some of its finances for political purposes, such as making financial contributions to a particular political party.   Trade Union members have a right to request that none of their membership fees are contributed to the fund.  

Employees - Trade Union Political Funds 

Employers - Trade Union Political Funds


Poor Performance

Poor work performance has a negative impact on productivity and workplace effectiveness and in severe cases could lead to an increase of workplace accidents. In addition, failure to address poor performance could cause resentment and have a negative impact on those employees who are performing satisfactorily. The Agency’s Advisory Guide - Advice on Managing Poor Performance is designed to provide employers with guidance on identifying the causes of and dealing with instances of poor work performance.

Positive Discrimination

Positive Discrimination occurs when an employer treats a worker or group of workers more favourably than others and the difference is specifically related to their gender, race, religion etc.  It is the opposite of treating others less favourably on the grounds of their race etc, but the outcome is the same – one group or individual feels they have been treated less favourably.  It is unlawful in most cases, although there are exceptions; for example, positive discrimination in relation to job training does not necessarily amount to racial discrimination where it is to address a racial imbalance in a workforce.  

See Discrimination

Posted Workers

Posted workers are workers who are sent by their employers to work abroad for a temporary period in another EU Member State. The Equal Opportunities (Employment Legislation) (Territorial Limits) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 implemented a relevant European Directive which provides for equality of treatment in relation to employment terms and conditions of posted workers.  This ensures that posted workers receive no less favourable treatment than comparable workers in the host member state.

The Equal Opportunities (Employment Legislation) (Territorial Limits) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000


Pre- Employment Checks

Pre-employment checks are an important part of the recruitment process. They help employers to:

  • comply with the law by ensuring the employee has permission to work and remain  in the UK and has not been barred from carrying out the job – e.g. for roles working with vulnerable groups or holding the position of director
  • check that the potential employee is suitably qualified or skilled for the job
  • assess whether the potential employee is suitable for the job – e.g. for roles working with vulnerable groups or security roles
  • check that the employee is physically able to carry out the job - though employers must ensure they do not discriminate

For more information read the guide from nibusinessinfo.co.uk


Pre-Claim Conciliation

Where a problem or disagreement in the workplace is likely to lead to a tribunal claim the Labour Relations Agency will often be able to help employers and employees find a solution that is acceptable to both. This service is known as Pre-Claim Conciliation. It can save you the time, stress and expense normally associated with a tribunal claim.

Issues referred for Pre-claim Conciliation are dealt with by Conciliation Officers who talk through the problem, outline your options, discuss the benefits of the service and answer any questions you may have.

Pre-claim Conciliation

Pre-hearing review

A pre-hearing review is a type of hearing at an Industrial Tribunal and the purpose is to:

  • decide whether the claim or response should be struck out;
  • decide questions of entitlement to bring or defend a claim;
  • decide, if either party’s case has no reasonable prospect of success and if so, decide how much of a deposit is to be paid (current maximum of £500), before that party can continue to take part in the proceedings.

Industrial Tribunals Procedures


Probationary Periods

Employers may sometimes state that a contract of employment is permanent subject to the completion of a satisfactory probationary period.  This period may be used by the employer to assess the employee’s performance and suitability for employment.  An employer should appraise the employee’s performance regularly during the probationary period, providing relevant assistance and training.  Case law suggests that regardless of how long the probationary period is, an employee does not have the right to be employed for that full period and in most cases an employer will have the right to terminate the contract during the probationary period.  However an employer must ensure that they follow the Statutory Dismissal and Disciplinary procedure if terminating a contract of employment during the probationary period.  

See Dismissal 

Protective Award

A protective award (award of compensation) is made in circumstances where an employer has been found to have failed in their responsibilities to carry out formal consultation with employee representatives (or in the absence of elected representatives, the employees) in connection with a collective redundancy situation.  The amount of the award may vary, depending on what is deemed just and equitable by the Industrial Tribunal taking account of the relevant circumstances, for example, the extent to which the employer failed in their duty to consult.

LRA guide - Advice on handling redundancy

Public Interest Disclosure Order/Protected Disclosure

The Public Interest Disclosure (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 provides protection for an individual who makes a qualifying disclosure (also referred to as whistle blowing) in good faith to their employer or other third party against dismissal or detriment for making the disclosure.  A qualifying disclosure is one which in the reasonable belief of the individual tends to show one or more of the following:

  • that a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed,
  • that a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he is subject,
  • that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur,
  • that the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered,
  • that the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged, or
  • that information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the preceding sub-paragraphs has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed.

It is automatically unfair to dismiss an employee or subject them to a detriment for making a protected disclosure.

See Dismissal

Telephone Enquiry Point

The Agency’s Enquiry Point is available to employers, employees, trade unions and others. Enquiry Point advisors provide information and advice on a wide range of employment matters. The Enquiry Point is also an important contact point for identifying circumstances, or clients, who would benefit from being referred to other Agency services.

The Enquiry Point provides clear, confidential, independent and impartial advice to assist the caller in resolving issues in the workplace.

While the advisors cannot provide a legal opinion they can help callers gain a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities as well as identifying possible options to help resolve their issues.

028 9032 1442

Monday - Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm

Contact Us

Please note that we cannot deal with employment-related enquiries by e-mail. To receive information or advice about an employment-related issue, please telephone our Helpline on Belfast 90 321442 where an officer will speak with you directly about your query. Please note that the Agency can arrange the services of an interpreter if required.

If you have an employment relations issue in Great Britain please contact the ACAS Helpline on 0300 123 1100 .

For all non-employment related queries or questions please fill in the box below.