There are a range of measures to support parents who work. A key piece of employment law called the Work and Families Act 2006 provides for the following:
- up to nine months’ statutory maternity pay, maternity allowance and statutory adoption pay
- ‘keeping in touch’ days, so that, where employees and employers agree, a woman on maternity leave can go into work for a few days without losing her right to maternity leave and pay
- additional paternity leave for fathers to care for a child and to receive statutory pay if the mother returns to work before the end of her maternity leave period
- a two-month notice period if women (or their employers) want to vary their return dates from maternity leave
- employers to make reasonable contact with employees whilst on maternity leave, to help them plan and ease the mother’s return to work.
Maternity leave and pay
You may be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if you:
- have been employed up to the 15th week before the week your baby is due
- have been employed by the same employer without a break for at least 26 weeks
- pay National Insurance.
Your employer may also have their own maternity pay scheme offering additional benefits over and above SMP.
If you choose not to go back to work after having your baby you may be asked to pay back some of the company maternity pay. However, the part of your maternity pay that is made up of SMP does not have to be repaid.
Contact your Personnel department for more information about their maternity pay scheme.
Adoption leave and pay
You may be entitled to Statutory Adoption Pay for up to 39 weeks and Statutory Adoption Leave up to 52 weeks. Your institution may also have their own scheme, offering additional benefits. Contact your Personnel department for more information.
Paternity leave and pay
You may be entitled to Statutory Paternity Leave of one or two consecutive weeks (in addition to your normal Annual Leave) if you:
- are an employee, with a contract of employment
- are the biological father of the child or you are the mother’s husband or partner (including Civil Partners), or you are the child’s adopter or the partner of the adopter
- have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the start of the week when the baby is due or by the end of the week in which you are notified of being matched with your child
- will be fully involved in the child’s upbringing and are taking time off to support the mother or care for the child.
You may also be entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay if you pay National Insurance.
Contact your Personnel department for more information about their scheme, which may be more generous than the statutory one.
Flexible working for parents
The Flexible Working (Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2002 gives working parents the right to ask their employer for a flexible working arrangement (e.g. part-time work, working from home, term-time work only). The employer is not obliged to agree but they do have to consider the request seriously and give an ‘objective justification’ (i.e. a sound business reason) if they refuse your request. Contact your Personnel department to find out more about your institution’s Flexible Working policies.
Many universities and research institutes participate in the government’s Childcare Vouchers scheme. The scheme enables you to buy vouchers from your gross salary (i.e. before tax) which are redeemable against the cost of childcare, thus reducing the financial burden of childcare arrangements. Vouchers are now accepted by most childcare providers.