Family friendly rights

This section looks at key aspects of your rights with regards to your family, such as maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave.

Working parents have the right to take the following types of leave, and receive pay whilst taking leave:

  • Statutory Maternity Leave
  • Statutory Adoption Leave
  • Statutory Paternity Leave
  • Shared Parental Leave

Watch our short video giving and overview of these four areas, as well as reading on for more information:

Statutory Maternity Leave, Pay and Pregnancy


Pregnant workers are protected from unfair treatment, discrimination and dismissal due to their pregnancy.  Your co-operative must take steps to remove any health and safety risks within the workplace or features of the role which may harm your worker or her baby.

During the pregnancy, you must allow your employee paid time off to attend antenatal appointments. Partners are entitled to attend 2 appointments unpaid.

Maternity Leave

Employees can take up to 52 weeks Statutory Maternity Leave. It is compulsory for employees to take 2 weeks of maternity leave (4 weeks if they work in a factory) immediately after their baby is born.

The earliest that maternity leave can start is 11 weeks before the expected week of birth. Maternity leave will start automatically:

  • where the baby is early (starting the day following the birth)
  • where the employee is off sick with a pregnancy related illness, in the 4 weeks before the week of the baby’s expected birth.

At least 15 weeks before the baby is due your employee must confirm their due date and their maternity leave start date.

Maternity Pay

Statutory Maternity Pay (‘SMP’) is paid for up to 39 weeks to eligible employees read more on the website.

Eligible employees must be paid by their employer:

  • 90% of average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
  • £139.58* or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

Tax and national insurance should be deducted, and wages paid on their normal payroll date.

Statutory Adoption Leave and Pay

Where a child is adopted, an adoptive parent can take up to 52 weeks Statutory Adoption Leave. Statutory Adoption Pay (‘SAP’) is set at the same level as Statutory Maternity Pay.

The main adopter will be entitled to take paid time off for up to 5 adoption appointments. The secondary adopter will be entitled to take unpaid time off for up to 2 appointments.

Within 7 days of being matched, your employee must give your co-operative details about the adoption, and the date when they wish to start adoption leave. 28 days’ notice should be given prior to receipt of adoption pay.

If your employee is adopting with their partner, only one of them may take statutory adoption leave even if their partner works for another organisation. The partner not taking adoption leave may be entitled to statutory paternity leave and pay (see below).

Again, eligibility requirements apply, find out more on the website.

Statutory Paternity Leave and Pay

Employees are entitled to take Statutory Paternity Leave of up to 2 weeks where their partner is having a baby or adopting a child. Paternity leave must be taken within 56 days of birth.

Statutory Paternity Pay is set at £139.58* or 90% of average weekly earnings. Eligibility requirements apply on the website.

Shared Parental Leave and Pay

In 2015, a new type of leave was introduced for parents wanting to share the care of their child during maternity or adoption leave called Shared Parental Leave.

Parents must meet the eligibility requirements found on the website.

If an employee is eligible, and their partner ends maternity or adoption leave and pay early, they can opt to share the remaining 52 weeks leave and remaining 39 weeks of pay. Unlike maternity or adoption leave, parents can choose to take consecutive periods of leave, take leave at the same time as their partner, or take up to 3 separate blocks of leave.

Shared Parental Leave must be taken between the date of birth or adoption, and the child’s first birthday (or within 1 year of adoption).  Employees must give their employer 8 week’s notice of their intention to start their leave. Where an employee wishes to take separate blocks of leave, an employer has the right to suggest an alternative pattern.

Shared Parental Leave Pay is set at the rate of £139.58* or 90% of average earnings (which ever is lower) for up to 39 weeks.

During Leave

During leave, an employee’s employment rights are protected. Holiday will continue to accrue throughout leave.

Returning to Work after Leave

Where maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave has lasted for less than 26 weeks, an employee has the right to return to their existing job.

After 26 weeks, employees have the right to return to their existing job, or a job on the same or better terms.

*Rates change each year – check for the current rate of statutory payments.

Unpaid parental leave

Parents have the right to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave up until their child's 18th birthday (maximum 4 weeks per year) provided that the purpose of the leave is to look after their child's welfare. See for more information. 

In this section

Recruitmant and resourcing • Dealing with sickness absence • Grievances and ending employment • Performance management

Co-operatives UK HR Package: Delivering HR expertise for your co‑operative

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HR training

Co-operatives UK offers one-day training, including an essential HR course – find out more.

Updated: 26/03/2019