Getting the leave you are entitled to at work is important. If you work too hard and don’t take enough time off, your health, work/life balance and productivity may suffer.

Your employer will grant you leave for particular circumstances. Check your contract to know how much leave you are entitled to.

Maternity leave

All employees who give birth can take statutory maternity leave (SML) of up to 52 weeks to care for their baby and recover from birth. During this period you may be able to claim statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks of your maternity leave. You are also entitled to paid time off for antenatal appointments.

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Shared parental leave

A new shared parental leave (ShPL) and pay system applying to parents and adopters of children due or adopted on or after 5 April 2015, is set to be introduced. Mothers, fathers and adopters can opt to share parental leave around their child’s birth or placement.

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Paternity leave

Paternity leave gives new parents the chance to spend time with their families if their partner is expecting a child or adopting a child

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Parental leave

You have the right to take time off to look after your children until they are five years old. Most employers don’t pay you if you take parental leave. As long as the time you take off is in proportion to the care your child needs, it can be taken as parental leave.

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Sick leave and sick pay

Sick leave is defined as a period of absence from work due to health. Most people will need to take sick leave at some point in their working lives, so it is important that you know what rights you are entitled to.

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Time off for dependants

You have the right to take time off for unplanned events or emergencies involving your dependants. Your dependants include your children, parents and partner, but can include other people who reasonably rely on you.

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Adoption leave

If you adopt a child, you may have the right to up to 52 weeks of adoption leave. To qualify, you must:

  • be an employee (rather than, for example, a contractor) and have worked continuously for your current employer for at least 26 weeks ending with the week in which you are notified of being matched with the child;
  • be newly matched with a child by an adoption agency.

Annual leave

If you work five days a week or more you have the right to at least 28 days’ paid leave every year. Your employer can control some things about your holiday, including when you take it. If you work part time, you are entitled to the same amount of leave on a pro-rata basis.

Special leave

Special leave is the term used to describe time off work that doesn’t fit into any of the other categories of leave. There are many different types of special leave which you are entitled to by law. Some types of leave are at the discretion of your employer.

Some things that may justify special leave are:

  • a domestic crisis;
  • hospital appointments;
  • court appearances;
  • trade union representation.
Key facts
  • There are many different types of leave that you are entitled to, depending on your circumstances.
  • There are laws governing the amount of leave you can take but your employer is likely to have their own rules too, although you cannot be worse off under your employer’s own terms.
  • Taking one type of leave should not generally affect your other leave allowances. For example, if you take sick leave you can still take your full amount of annual leave.



  • Am I entitled to parental leave if I adopt a child?

    Yes, adoptive parents, like biological parents, are entitled to parental leave.  In addition, adoption leave and pay ensures that adoptive parents can take time off work to look after their children.

  • I am expecting a baby. Can I take any of my maternity leave before the birth?

    Yes, you can choose when to start your maternity leave provided that you do not choose to start it more than 11 weeks before the week in which you expect to give birth.

    You may be required to begin your maternity leave early if you are absent from work during the four weeks prior to the week in which you are due to give birth.

    In addition, before you start your actual maternity leave you can take time off to attend antenatal appointments such as medical examinations and relaxation classes if advised by a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife of registered nurse.

  • If I take parental leave will I be paid?

    Probably not. Most employers insist that you take parental leave unpaid. But if you are on a low income you may qualify for income support.

  • Is there a legal minimum I can expect to be paid if I am on sick leave?

    Statutory sick pay is currently £86.70 per week.