Pregnancy & Flexible Working

All businesses are likely at some point to find themselves with an employee needing to take maternity leave or requesting flexible working. Employment laws over time have changed to provide much more protection and flexibility for employees with families and responsibilities in the home.

Family friendly rights are not just for parents, they are for anyone that finds themselves in a caring role – it could be for an elderly or disabled relative for example. It is important for every business to be aware of their legal obligations in connection to these areas of law as you must be willing to accommodate reasonable requests.

We recommend that every business has written policies relating to employee rights and business procedures in respect of pregnancy, maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave and flexible working amongst other family friendly rights.

This will give reassurance to your employees that you have clear policies in place and will be willing to deal with any situation legally and fairly.


If an employee has advised you that they are pregnant it is important to consider the additional employment rights that the employee now has. The employee is entitled to paid time off for antenatal appointments and you should carry out risk assessments relating to the employee and their job role.

Flexible working

All employees now have the right to request flexible working. It is not just for parents or those who are caring, provided that the employee has worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks a flexible working request can be made. Flexible working could include working from home, working reduced hours, job sharing, working part-time, working compressed hours or working annualised hours. An employee can only make one application for flexible working each year, each request must be made in writing and must be considered by an employer who must make a decision within 3 months.

There are criteria to be met by employers when considering a flexible working request, particularly if the request is to be refused – an employer must be able to show that the refusal is for genuine business reasons and there are guidelines as to what these can be.

Maternity leave

An employee is normally able to take up to 52 weeks maternity leave, regardless of how long they have worked for an employer. It can be taken anytime from the 29th week of pregnancy. The employee has protection against discrimination by their employer during maternity leave, they have rights to maternity pay, and rights to holiday pay amongst other things. As an employer it is important to be aware of the rights attached to maternity leave to ensure that the employee has no cause to make a complaint to an employment tribunal.

Parental leave

If an employee has been continuously employed for more than 1 year, they are entitled to up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave for each child. It is available to parents with children up to the age of 5, or up to 18 if the child is disabled.

Shared parental leave

If an employee is expecting or adopting a child, both the employee and their partner (regardless of whether or not they work for the same employer) may be able to share the maternity leave and pay. To qualify you both need to be in paid employment and have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the time the mother is 25 weeks pregnant, or by the date of the placement in the case of adoption. The mother’s partner must also have worked for 26 weeks out of the last 66 weeks (they do not have to be consecutive weeks and must have earned at least £30 per week.

This is a complex area of law and should you receive a request for shared parental leave from an employee, we can provide expert legal advice and guidance to you.

Paternity leave

Working fathers are entitled to up to 2 weeks paternity leave after the birth of their child. To qualify the employee must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the time their partner / spouse is 25 weeks pregnant. The employee must be taking responsibility for the child’s upbringing, either as a biological father or the partner of the mother, including same sex partners. Finally, the employee must make sure that they give their employer proper notice. Paternity leave can only be taken from the day the baby is born or due or from the date agreed with the employer.

Adoptive parental leave

To qualify, the employee must have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks by the time they are matched with a child. The child must be unrelated to either the employee or their partner and they must be taking responsibility for the child’s upbringing.

Adoption leave

If the employee a working parent that has been matched for adoption, they will normally be able to take up to 52 weeks adoption leave. They will also be entitled to the 39 weeks of Statutory Adoption Pay which is set at the same rates as maternity pay.

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How we can help

Our highly experienced employment law specialists can give you all the advice and support you need when it comes to dealing with family friendly rights in the workplace. We can assist with drafting policies, training management and key personnel, and advising on specific situations including providing draft letters and documents for your use.

If you would like more information or just want a confidential, no obligation chat about your options, contact our highly experienced team today

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