NHS Scotland Once for Scotland workforce policies - work-life balance: consultation

The NHSScotland 'Once for Scotland' Workforce policies programme is designed to review and transform existing workforce policies (previously known as Partnership Information Network (PIN) Policies). This consultation focuses on the refreshed supporting the work-life balance suite of policies.

8. Parental Leave Policy

8.1. Aim

8.1.1. The Parental Leave Policy aims to:

  • outline the eligibility procedure employees must use to request parental leave
  • provide details about employees' statutory and contractual rights
  • confirm parental leave pay arrangements

8.2. Scope

8.2.1. This policy applies to all employees who meet the eligibility criteria.

8.2.2. This Policy complies with current legislation and meets the aims of the Public Sector Equality Duty of the Equality Act 2010

8.3. Definitions

8.3.1. Parent is one of two people who will share the main responsibility for the child's upbringing whether by birth or adoption.

8.3.2. Partner is a person living in an enduring family relationship with the parent and the child. This may include step parents.

8.3.3. Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) is the government body that manages pensions for NHSScotland employees.

8.4. Roles and responsibilities

8.4.1. There is a range of standard expectations which underpin all policies. Read more about standard roles and responsibilities. In addition, the following specific responsibilities apply to this policy.  

8.4.2. Manager  

8.4.3. The manager should:

  • respond promptly to a request for parental leave
  • apply the policy in a fair and consistent way
  • record the agreed leave on the appropriate systems and transfer it to any future employer
  • maintain contact with employees while they are on parental leave if the period of leave is more than 4 weeks
  • review evidence provided by the employee and check the balance of parental leave remaining

8.4.4. In addition, managers cannot postpone parental leave if a request is made for it to start immediately on the birth or adoption of a child.

8.4.5. Employee  

8.4.6. The employee should:

  • make the request for parental leave to their manager, adhere to timescales, and provide all required information
  • consider the duration and time of leave, balancing their own needs with the needs of colleagues and the service
  • maintain contact with their manager while they are on parental leave if the period of leave is more than 4 weeks
  • on taking up post advise of any parental leave take whilst working for another employer

8.5. Procedure

8.5.1. To assist employees with parental responsibilities to balance family and work commitments and spend time with their children.

8.5.2. Parental leave eligibility

8.5.3. To qualify for parental leave, an employee must meet the eligibility criteria. They must:

  • have 12 months of continuous service with one or more NHS employers
  • have or expect to have responsibility for a child
  • be taking leave to spend time or otherwise care for the child

8.5.4. To have responsibility for a child, the employee must be the biological or adoptive parent or have parental responsibility in some other way. An example is a court order.

8.5.5. The employee may not live with the child. They may have separated from the other parent. However, they still have the right to parental leave if they keep parental responsibility for the child.

8.5.6. For more information, read the:

  • Guide for managers [guide to help managers use and understand the Parental Leave Policy]
  • Guide for employees [guide to help employees use and understand the Parental Leave Policy]

8.5.7. Entitlement

8.5.8. Employees are entitled to 18 weeks of leave for each child under 18. For NHSScotland employees, the first 4 weeks is paid leave. Pay will be as if at work and will reflect contractual hours. The remaining 14 weeks are unpaid.

8.5.9. Employees will be asked for evidence of entitlement when they make their first request for leave for a child.

8.5.10. The paid element must be taken before the child's 14th birthday or 18th birthday for an adopted child or a child with a disability.

8.5.11. Employees usually take parental leave in weekly blocks.

8.5.12. If an individual changes employer, the entitlement balance is not restored to 18 weeks. The individual should notify their new employer of any parental leave and pay already taken.

8.5.13. The employee can request to take parental leave as a separate entitlement or may choose to add to their:

  • maternity leave [Maternity Policy]
  • adoption leave [Adoption, Fostering and Kinship Policy]
  • new parent support leave [New Parent Support Policy]
  • shared maternity and shared adoption leave [Shared Maternity and Shared Adoption Policy]

8.5.14. Application process

8.5.15. Employees should request leave at least 3 weeks before the start of the leave using the Parental leave form. [form to request parental leave]

8.5.16. If the employee intends to take more than 4 weeks in a continuous block, they should normally give their manager 2 months' notice. If the manager is able to support a parental leave request with less than 2 months' notice, it should be accommodated.

8.5.17. Confirming parental leave

8.5.18. The manager will confirm parental leave dates in writing. In exceptional circumstances, the employer may ask the employee to postpone parental leave due to the needs of the service. The manager and employee should discuss and agree an alternative time to take parental leave. This should normally be within 6 months.

8.5.19. If the employee agrees to postpone parental leave, they can take it at a later date, even if it is:

  • beyond the child's 14th birthday for paid parental leave
  • after the child's 18th birthday for unpaid parental leave, an adopted child, or a child with a disability

8.5.20. The employee can postpone or cancel parental leave by giving reasonable notice.

8.5.21. Contractual rights of employee

8.5.22. During parental leave, the employee retains all contractual rights, except remuneration during any period of unpaid leave. They should return to the same job after their parental leave.

8.5.23. Employees should check how unpaid leave will impact their pension with the SPPA.

8.5.24. Resolution of disagreements

8.5.25. Managers should not unreasonably withhold an employee's request for parental leave. Should a disagreement arise, the employee has the right to raise matters under the Grievance Policy. It may be appropriate for either party to seek advice on resolving the matter from HR colleagues or a trade union representative. They should seek early resolution wherever possible.

8.5.26. Related policies:

  • Maternity Policy
  • New Parent Support Policy
  • Shared Maternity and Shared Adoption Policy
  • Adoption, Fostering and Kinship Policy
  • Special Leave Policy

8.6. Supporting documentation

It is proposed that the supporting documents listed below will be developed to support the policy. Supporting documents are not part of the consultation. These will be drafted following the consultation when responses have been analysed and the policy is developed in a final draft.

Employee guide

Descriptor: guide to help employees use and understand the Parental Leave Policy.

Manager guide

Descriptor: guide to help managers use and understand the Parental Leave Policy.

Parental Leave policy flowchart

Descriptor: visual and text alternative flowcharts outlining the key steps in the Parental Leave Policy.

Parental Leave Form

Descriptor: form to request parental leave.

8.7. Consultation questions

We are inviting responses to this consultation using the Scottish Government's consultation hub. The following questions are set.

In your response, all questions have the option to answer yes or no. You are invited to provide further comment in a free text box. If you wish to make specific reference to a section of the policy, please quote the relevant numbered line in this consultation document.

1. Do you feel there are any gaps in the policy?

2. Do you feel there are any gaps in the proposed list of supporting documents?

3. Do you have any other comments to make on the policy?

4. Do you have any views on the potential impacts of this policy on equalities groups?

It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. These are protected characteristics under the Equality Act, 2010.

5. Should the entitlement to paid parental leave be extended to include step parents?



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