Guide

Issue the correct periods of notice

Notice periods on family-related leave

An employee intending to take maternity or paternity leave must give notice before the end of the 15th week before the expected date of birth and state the expected week of childbirth and the date of the start of the leave. An employee taking paternity leave should also state how much leave is being taken.

An employee taking shared parental leave must give their employer eight week’s notice (before the leave starts) of their intention to take shared parental leave. 

For adoption leave employees must notify the employer within seven days of being notified that they have been matched for adoption, the date the child is expected and the date the leave is to start.

Unless there is a collective agreement in force with a different period then employees must give 21 days' notice to the employer to take any period of parental leave.

Returning to work

Employees returning from maternity or adoption leave don't have to give any notice if returning at the end of their entitled leave. The employer is responsible for telling the employee when leave expires.

If an employee wants to return early, eight weeks' notice must be given to the employer. If not, the employer can postpone the return until the full eight weeks' notice has been given or until the date when the maternity/adoption leave would have ended, whichever is earlier. However, the employer may not postpone an employee's return to a date later than the end of the maternity/adoption leave period.

If the employee does not want to return to work at the end of a period of leave, they must give their normal contracted period of notice. An employee is not required to say in advance whether she intends to return after maternity or adoption leave.

Dismissal

A dismissal on grounds of, or connected with, maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental or parental leave will be regarded by an industrial tribunal as automatically unfair and risks amounting to unlawful sex discrimination.

It is not unlawful to dismiss an employee on maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental or parental leave providing it is not for reasons connected with the leave.

If there is a redundancy situation while an employee is off on maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental or parental leave, the employee is entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy where there is one, before it is offered to any other employees. It would be unlawful to make an employee redundant without first complying with this requirement. The employee is entitled to the statutory notice period, or her contractual notice period, whichever is longer, or payment in lieu of notice (if the contract provides for it or, in the absence of any contractual provision, the employee is willing to accept pay in lieu of notice).