Everything you need to know about: 

UK Statutory Leave

In the UK, we have the right to statutory leave such as sick leave, compassionate leave and parental leave. As both an employer and an employee it’s important to know what those rights are, any guidelines in requesting leave, and how to manage requests and absences.

In this post, we’ll look at all the leave types, lets get started! 

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Sick Leave

Sick leave is one of the most common types of leave required by employees. Everyone gets sick sometimes and needs to take a bit of time off from work. So, knowing how sick actually works, and what you’re entitled to in terms of sick pay is vital. 

Compassionate leave

Compassionate leave is not something anyone wants to have to take, but in the times when it’s needed it’s so important to know that your job is protected if you need to take time off suddenly. It’s a legal entitlement in the UK to take time off after a loved one dies; it can also be referred to as ‘time off for dependants’ and can be taken to care for a loved one. 

What is the compassionate leave entitlement?

Employees are entitled to a ‘reasonable amount of time’ however there is not set guidelines, and many companies will base it on who the employee has lost. For example, for the death of a child or spouse, the employee might be offered more time off, compared to a grandparent or friend when they might only offer time for a funeral.

Compassionate leave does not have a requirement to be paid, and this is something which is also at the organisation’s discretion to offer. Employees do have the option to use annual leave in place of unpaid compassionate leave. 

Parental bereavement leave

Parental bereavement leave is a type of UK compassionate leave which occurs when parents deal with the death of a child, if they die under 18 or after 24 weeks of pregnancy. In these circumstances, parents are entitled to two weeks of paid leave.

Parental leave

Having a child is such an exciting time for a new parent, but one thing you never want to have to worry about is taking time off for your child. Luckily in the UK we have a few different types of parental leave which allows parents to be home with their kids when needed. 


Starting with maternity leave in the UK, people who are pregnant have the right to take time off after they give birth, including surrogates for someone else. All pregnant people must by law take at least 2 weeks off after the baby is born (or 4 weeks if you work in a factory.)

If you are employed then you have the right to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and you have this right from the first day of starting a job, however, it is up to you how many weeks you choose to take off.

How does maternity pay work?

If you are classed as an employee, have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks, and earn at least £123 a week on average for 8 weeks before your qualifying week, then you are eligible for statutory maternity pay. The rate for this is set by the government, and you can receive it for up to 39 weeks. For the first 6 weeks you’ll get 90% of your average weekly earnings, then for the following 33 weeks you’ll get the SMP rate.

Employers can offer something called enhanced maternity pay which will be outlined in your employment contract.

Paternity leave is the time you can take off to spend with your new baby if you are the:

  • child’s biological father
  • child’s adopter or intended parent (if using a surrogate)
  • child’s mother’s husband or partner (including same-sex partners).

You must also have been working for your employer for at least 26 continuous weeks by either:

  • the end of the 15th week before the week of the due date
  • the end of the week that you are told you’ve been matched with your child for adoption (for UK adoptions).

You’ll be able to take up to 2 weeks off, but it must be used consecutively, and it is pro-rated. This means that if you only work 2 days a week, then you can only take 2 days off and it’ll count as one week. Some employers might offer extended paternity leave, and this will be included in your employment contract.  

How does paternity pay work?

You are eligible for statutory paternity pay (SPP) if you are eligible to statutory paternity leave, it is paid either the SPP rate or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

Shared parental leave (SPL) allows an employee and their partner to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them. You are entitled to shared parental leave under the following circumstances:

  • having a baby
  • using a surrogate to have a baby
  • adopting a child
  • fostering a child who you’re planning to adopt


If you want to be eligible for SPL you or your partner has to:

  • take less than the 52 weeks of maternity or adoption leave and use the rest as SPL
  • take less than the 39 weeks of maternity or adoption pay (or Maternity Allowance) and use the rest as shared parental pay (ShPP)

For example, if you’re the mother and you’ve taken 20 weeks of Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay, you can share 32 weeks of SPL and 17 weeks of ShPP with your partner.


In the UK parents are entitled to up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave per child, this can be taken up until the child turns 18. Parents can take up to 4 weeks per year per child as leave (unless your employer agrees otherwise). You must take your parental leave as whole weeks, rather than individual days but you don’t have to take it all at once. 

Parents qualify for the unpaid parental leave under these circumstances: 

  • they’ve been in the company for more than a year
  • they’re named on the child’s birth or adoption certificate, or they have or expect to have parental responsibility
  • they’re not self-employed or a ‘worker’, e.g. an agency worker or contractor
  • they’re not a foster parent (unless they’ve secured parental responsibility through the courts)
  • the child is under 18


Absence management

Now that you know all the different types of UK statutory leave it’s important as a business that you have an absence management plan (link when reviewed) in place to keep on top of who is working, when they’re working and how you can prevent unplanned time off.


How to handle employee absences:

Be understanding that people get sick, life gets busy, and employees do sometimes need to take time off for a variety of reasons. As an employer it’s important that you understand your employees. This will make them feel more supported, and more likely to return to work as soon as they can.

Be flexible and look for an option that might allow an employee to work in a more flexible way that would avoid absence.

Have clear guidelines. We’ve already mentioned putting a policy in place, this is something you need to do to handle your employee absences. It’ll allow you to be on the same page as each other and if an employee does break the policy will allow you to be clear with them on the process.

Employee wellbeing. Having an employee wellbeing program can help reduce stress which can reduce absence.

Communication. Talk to your people, and make sure your managers know how to talk to them too. Explain to everyone about their leave options, and the absence policy your organisation has. With open communication you’re more likely to find a solution which works together.

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