Stonewall Scotland | Family leave and pay and LGBT people
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​Rights to family leave and pay for employees

As more LGBT couples are becoming parents, companies are waking up to the fact that it makes business sense to ensure that their LGBT staff have the same level of support and right to parental leave as everyone else. The summary below covers statutory rights only, and many companies provide more generous contractual terms. If you are thinking about becoming a parent it is worth checking your organisation's policies as well, and speaking to HR or your line manager about how your organisation will support you.

Maternity leave

The person giving birth to the baby is entitled to the following maternity leave and pay:

  • They must take the first two weeks off following the birth of the baby (four weeks if they work in a factory)
  • They are entitled to 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave. If they return to work during this period they will be entitled to return to exactly the same job they had before they took maternity leave
  • They can then take a further 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave. If they take more than 26 weeks leave, they have the right to return to the same job unless it is no longer available. In this instance they must be given a similar job with the same pay and conditions
  • For the first six weeks of maternity leave they are entitled to 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax
  • For the following 33 weeks they are entitled to statutory maternity pay, which is currently £138.18 per week, or 90% of average weekly earnings if this is lower.

Paternity leave

Those entitled to paternity leave include the spouse, civil partner or partner of the person giving birth or primary adopter, who will share responsibility for the child’s upbringing.

  • Leave entitlement is two consecutive weeks of Ordinary Paternity Leave during the 56 days following the child’s birth.
  • During Ordinary Paternity Leave the  pay entitlement is 90% of average weekly earnings before tax, or statutory paternity pay, whichever is lower.
  • For parents of babies born on or after 5 April 2015, Additional Paternity Pay has been replaced with the system of Shared Parental Leave.

Shared parental leave

Parents of children born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015 (whether by birth, adoption or surrogacy) will be able to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) during the first year of the child’s life, or the first year after their placement for adoption. Additional Paternity Leave and Pay was abolished from 5 April 2015.

  • If the mother or primary adopter returns to work before the end of their period of statutory maternity or adoption leave, the couple can share the remaining leave between them.
  • The remaining leave can be taken in three separate blocks, allowing the mother to return to work for a period, and then return to maternity leave for a further period.
  • Similarly, maternity or adoption pay can be shared between the couple if the mother or primary adopter returns to work before their entitlement to pay has ended.

Adoption and surrogacy leave

From 5 April 2015 parents who are adopting a child, and parents who apply for a parental order in relation to a child born under a surrogacy agreement, will be entitled to the same leave and pay.

  • Individuals or couples who have a baby placed for adoption with them, and couples who apply for a parental order in relation to a child born to a surrogate are entitled to adoption and surrogacy leave.
  • An application for a parental order must be made by two people, who are either married, in a civil partnership, or an ‘enduring family relationship’. At least one of the applicants must be biologically related to the child.
  • Whether they are adopting a child or applying for a parental order, a couple must decide which one of them will elect to take adoption leave (the ‘primary adopter’).
  • They are entitled to 52 weeks statutory adoption leave. If the primary adopter returns to work before the end of their adoption leave entitlement, the remaining period of adoption leave can be shared between the two adopting parents, in accordance with the rules on Shared Parental Leave
  • For the first six weeks of adoption leave, the primary adopter is entitled to 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax.
  • For the following 33 weeks, they are entitled to statutory adoption pay, or 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax, whichever is lower
  • If the person who has elected to take statutory adoption pay returns to work before the end of their adoption pay entitlement, the remaining period of adoption pay can be shared between the two adopting parents, in accordance with the rules on Shared Parental Pay.

Parental leave

In addition to leave at the time of a child’s birth or adoption, birth parents, adoptive parents and those who have parental responsibility for children are entitled to unpaid leave to care for their child, at any time before the child’s fifth birthday (or their 18th birthday if the child is entitled to disability living allowance). The entitlement is 18 weeks leave, to be taken in weekly blocks. This applies to each child, so for example an employee with two children would be entitled to 36 weeks parental leave per year.

Like maternity, paternity and adoption leave, notice must be given to take parental leave, so it is not suitable for use in an emergency. In such a case, the right to unpaid time off for dependants should be used.

Time off for dependants

Employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with emergencies affecting their dependants, including children, parents and spouses. Emergency situations include illness, an unexpected breakdown in childcare arrangements, or an unexpected incident at a child’s school. The employee must notify the employer as soon as reasonably practicable of the reason for their absence, and when they expect to return.

Flexible working

From 30 June 2014, an employee with 26 weeks continuous service can make a written request to change their work hours, the times they are required to work, or their place of work (i.e. working from home). Employers must deal with requests in a reasonable manner, and can only refuse on one of eight statutory grounds, such as the cost of making changes, or inability to reorganise work among other staff.

Ante-natal appointments

Pregnant women are entitled to paid time off to attend ante-natal appointments. As of 1st October 2014, spouses, civil partners and partners of pregnant women, and expectant fathers, are entitled to unpaid time off to accompany a pregnant woman to an ante-natal appointment. This is limited to two occasions of no more than six and a half hours, notice of which must be given to the employer in advance.

Information on this page has been provided by Bircham Dyson Bell LLP