Time off for parents
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Understand your options to take time off work to care for and look after your children.
This could be because:
- you're about to have, or have just had, a new baby
- you're adopting
- your child is sick or needs your additional attention throughout the various stages of growing up
Downloads on this page
Maternity and paternity leave
If you're expecting a baby and meet the qualifying criteria set out below, we offer a generous enhanced local government occupational maternity pay.
This section will hopefully help answer some of the many questions you probably have around:
- maternity leave entitlement
- informing your manager
- keeping in touch
- returning to work
The below guidance, information and advice is not exhaustive, nor does it replace the maternity scheme. It's been put together as a guide attempting to answer the most commonly asked questions.
To read the full details and terms and conditions of the scheme, click read the maternity scheme document or contact your line manager.
Email HR Services if you still need help.
You're entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave in total regardless of your length of service. To understand how this is worked out and broken down, please refer to section 2 on page 3 of the maternity scheme.
You can decide when to start your maternity leave, as long as it is no sooner than 11 weeks before expected childbirth up to your due date. However the total leave may not exceed 52 weeks.
Please note that if you fall sick within 4 weeks of expected childbirth with pregnancy related illness, your maternity leave will start automatically.
There are two types of maternity pay:
- Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
- Enhanced Local Government (LG) occupational maternity pay (OMP)
To qualify for SMP you have to give the correct notice of pregnancy through a MAT B1 form (issued by your doctor or a registered midwife) by your qualifying week. This should be no later than 15 weeks before expected childbirth.
You also have to:
- be an employee on Luton Council terms and conditions
- have worked for us for either:
- at least 26 continuous weeks before your qualifying week
- one year by the 11th week before your due date to qualify for enhanced Occupational Maternity Pay (OMP)
To qualify for SMP you must have worked at least 26 continuous weeks by the end of your qualifying week. If you haven’t worked for the council that long you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance from the government.
SMP equates to:
- 90% of your earnings for the first 6 weeks
- then £151.97 per week for an additional 33 weeks (correct as of May 2021)
However this amount normally increases every year and the current rate of SMP can be found on GOV.UK.
If you've worked for Luton more than one year by your 11th week before expected childbirth and meet the above criteria, you'll be entitled to OMP, which amounts to 12 weeks at 50% of your average earnings.
The 12 weeks half pay will normally take effect after SMP has been exhausted so you'll get:
- 6 weeks at 90% of your average earnings
- 33 weeks at current SMP rate found on GOV.UK
- 12 weeks occupational maternity pay at half pay (paid during weeks 7 to 18)
Please remember that maternity pay is subject to tax, NI and pension deductions.
There are conditions around repayment clauses if in receipt of OMP.
If you're not sure if you'll return to your job after maternity leave you can, with authorisation from your manager, opt to only have the 12 weeks half pay referenced above paid upon your actual return to work.
To understand how and if these conditions affect you, please refer to section 6.5 of the maternity scheme.
During your pregnancy you're entitled to paid antenatal appointments and classes, but you may be asked by your manager for appointment proof.
To avoid disruption to service you're advised to give as much notice as possible and to try and arrange this at the start or end of your working day.
For more details please refer to section 8 of the maternity scheme.
For expecting fathers, spouse or civil partners of an expectant mother, you're entitled to 2 unpaid antenatal appointments. Please refer to the compassionate and special leave procedure.
Whilst you're on maternity leave you continue to accrue annual leave (AL). You may want to think about and discuss with your manager how you are planning to use this.
Some new parents spread it out after their 52 weeks come to an end in order to enable a phased return, or to extend their leave. This may be especially attractive if you started your maternity leave early before the baby was born.
Similarly, you need to ensure you've taken your existing AL before you go on maternity leave.
Please refer to section 9 in the maternity scheme where you can read about AL during maternity leave in much more detail.
You're entitled to 10 keeping in touch days (KIT days) during your maternity leave and these will be paid at your normal daily rate of pay.
You can do as many or as few of these days as you wish, and they may be used to:
- attend team meetings
- attend events
- carry out any appropriate work as agreed with your manager
You’ll be expected to return to work on the expiry of the maternity leave period.
If you intend to return to work at the end of the maternity leave period you're not required to give any notice.
However If you wish to return to work before the expiry date of your maternity leave you should inform your line manager by giving 21 days’ notice of your date of return.
You do not have to take 52 weeks maternity leave but you must take two weeks maternity leave immediately after your baby is born.
If you're an employee on Luton Council terms and conditions and qualify (see full terms and conditions here) then there are a number of paternity leave options open to expectant fathers/spouses/civil partners of women expecting a baby.
The below guidance, information and advice is not exhaustive, nor does it replace the paternity scheme. It's been put together as a guide attempting to answer the most commonly asked questions.
Read the full details and terms and conditions of the scheme here or please contact your line manager. Email HR Services if you still need help.
Statutory paternity leave (SPL) can be taken as either 1 week or 2 consecutive weeks leave. It cannot:
- be taken as 2 non-consecutive weeks
- start before your baby has been born
The rate of pay is determined by the government each year. For the current rate of SPL pay please visit GOV.UK.
Alternatively, Maternity Support Leave (MSL) allows service directors to grant 5 days (pro rata for part time employees) paid leave to employees who are the nominated carer of an expectant mother.
This leave is to be taken at or around the time of the birth. If you take MSL you may not also take SPP but you can combine it with shared parental leave (ShPL).
You can apply for, or be granted, either or both of the following but not a combination of the two schemes and / or both:
- maternity MSL as outlined above and in section 2 of the paternity scheme
- SPL, but not a combination of the two schemes
However you're able to apply for both SPL and pay (2 weeks) and also ShPL and pay, which may work better for you and allow you to spend more time with your new baby.
You may also combine the above options with planned annual leave (AL) which you may have saved up to be able to support your partner and spend more time with your new baby.
Please note that you need to give double the amount of notice of the amount of AL you're planning to take. If this exceeds 3 weeks you'll need to put in a request for extended leave.
For full terms and condition of the paternity scheme and to ensure you qualify please refer to the paternity scheme details which can be found here.
Adoption and surrogacy
The rules and conditions around adoption leave is detailed and multifaceted as it can be taken with a mixture of paternity and shared parental leave.
If you're thinking of, or in the process of, adopting, or have recently adopted a child, please ensure you read the full adoption and surrogacy scheme. The information on this website only gives a very short and limited summary.
All employees, regardless of length of service, have a right to:
- 26 weeks of Ordinary Adoption Leave (OAL)
- 26 weeks Additional Adoption Leave (AAL)
This entitles them to 52 weeks leave in total. AAL runs immediately from the end of OAL.
You must give the correct notice and be classed as an employee to qualify. You also need to be:
- the child’s adopter or surrogate parent
- newly matched with a child by an approved adoption agency
- fostering a child under the 'Fostering to Adopt' scheme
Furthermore, you'll have notified the agency that you agree that the child should be placed with you and agree with the date of placement.
If you're a couple who are adopting jointly. one of you must be the primary adopter and able to take adoption leave. The other of you will be able to take paternity leave or shared parental leave.
If you're going to be a surrogate parent you'll also be required to provide the HR and Payroll Transactions team with a written statement (statutory declaration) to confirm that you intend to apply for a parental order in the 6 months after the baby’s birth.
For more information around surrogacy paperwork please read the full details of the adoption and surrogacy scheme.
If you qualify for adoption and surrogacy leave, you may also be entitled to adoption and surrogacy pay.
There are two forms of pay:
- statutory adoption pay (SAP)
- local government occupational adoption pay
The standard rate of SAP is reviewed annually and can be found on the GOV.UK website.
If adopting, you qualify for SAP if:
- you have at least 26 week’s continuous employment by the end of the notification / qualification week which is the day you were matched with a child
- in the 8 weeks leading up to the date you were notified, have earnings which exceed the national insurance lower earnings limits
- you stop working for the purpose of adopting a child
If you're in a surrogacy arrangement, you qualify for SAP if you have:
- at least 26 weeks continuous employment by the 15th week before the baby is due
- earnings which exceed the national insurance lower earnings limits
When adopting you must give 28 days notice that you wish to be paid SAP, unless the time between being matched and placed is less than that.
If you have less than 26 weeks’ continuous service, by the end of the notification week (for adoption) or if your earnings are below the national insurance lower earnings limit, you will not be entitled to SAP.
If you do not qualify for SAP, the HR and Payroll Transactions team will provide you with SAP1 form outlining why you're not eligible.
If adopting you should then contact the adoption agency for advice on what financial support you may be eligible to receive.
For employees with one year of service at the end of the notification week, regardless of hours of work, the scheme provides 52 weeks adoption leave with 39 weeks pay as follows:
- first 6 weeks at 90% average earnings (higher rate SAP) with statutory adoption pay offset
- then 33 weeks at statutory adoption pay (standard rate) dependent on entitlement
- in addition, 12 weeks occupational adoption pay at half pay (paid during weeks 7 to 18)
Employees with more than 26 weeks continuous service at the end of the notification week, regardless of hours of work will have an entitlement to:
- 52 weeks adoption leave
- 39 weeks statutory adoption pay (dependent on entitlement)
Employees with less than 26 weeks continuous service at the end of the notification week, regardless of hours of work will have an entitlement to 52 weeks adoption leave.
Shared parental leave (SPL)
SPL is a relatively new legislation that came into force in 2014. It enables parents to choose how to share the care of their child during the first year of birth or adoption.
The rules and conditions around shared parental leave are detailed, rather complex and multifaceted, as it can be taken with a mixture of paternity and maternity leave.
If you're thinking of SPL, please ensure you read the full SPL scheme document as the information on this website only gives a very short and limited summary.
To take advantage of SPL you must be an employee of the council and either:
- the mother/adopter and the father
- at the time of the birth, married to, or be the civil partner or partner, of the mother
Both of you must share the main responsibility for the care of the child at the time of birth or placement for the adoption.
Please ensure you read the full SPL scheme document.
If you meet the eligibility criteria, you may take up to 50 weeks SPL during the child’s first year in the family.
This is calculated using the mother’s/adopter’s entitlement to maternity or adoption leave, which allows them to take up to 52 weeks’ leave.
The mother/adopter may reduce their entitlement to maternity/adoption leave by returning to work before the full entitlement of 52 weeks has been taken, or they may give notice to curtail their leave at a specified future date.
If the mother/adopter is not entitled to maternity/adoption leave but is entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) or Maternity Allowance (MA), they must reduce their entitlement to less than the 39 weeks.
If they do this, their partner may be entitled to up to 50 weeks of SPL.
This is calculated by deducting from 52 the number of weeks of SMP, SAP or MA taken by the mother/adopter.
Please ensure you read the full SPL scheme document.
Shared parental leave can commence as follows:
- the mother can take SPL after she has taken the legally required two weeks of maternity leave immediately following the birth of the child
- the adopter can take SPL after taking at least two weeks of adoption leave
- the father/partner/spouse can take SPL immediately following the birth/placement of the child, but may first choose to exhaust any paternity or maternity support leave entitlements
This is because the father/partner cannot take paternity leave or maternity support leave or pay once they have taken any statutory paternity leave or shared parental pay.
If you qualify for SPL you may also be entitled to pay. There are two forms of pay:
- Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)
- Occupational Shared Parental Pay (OShPP)
Where an employee is entitled to receive ShPP they must, at least eight weeks before receiving any ShPP, give their line manager written notice advising of their entitlement to ShPP.
To avoid duplication, if possible, this should be included as part of the notice of entitlement to take SPL.
Any ShPP due will be paid at a rate set by the government for the relevant tax year. See the GOV.UK website for the current rate.
There are numerous conditions on receiving ShPP so please refer to the full SPL scheme document.
To be eligible for this payment, you must:
- have at least one year’s continuous local government service at the 12th week before the week in which the child is due (or at the week in which an adopter was notified of having been matched with a child or adoption)
- return to work after your last period of SPL for a qualifying period of 3 months
If you've received Occupational Maternity Pay you wont be entitled to Occupational Shared Parental Pay.
For the full terms of the scheme please refer to the full SPL scheme document.
OShPP is half of your normal weekly pay and is payable for a maximum period of 12 weeks in addition to ShPP.
The amount of weeks paid at half pay will depend on the number of weeks SPL being taken.
To prevent having to repay the OShPP, you need to return to work for the full qualifying period of 3 months with this authority.
If you were full time before your SPL and only return to work part-time, you'll need to work a longer qualifying period in order to make up the hours to the equivalent of 3 months’ full time.
If you take a career break or parental leave immediately following the end of your SPL, the 3 months qualifying period commences upon your return to work after the career break/parental leave.
For the full terms of the scheme please refer to the full SPL scheme document.
Time off for child illness
This does not apply to:
- routine doctor's appointments
- clinic appointments
- routine childhood vaccinations
- illnesses such as chickenpox
These should be accommodated either by flexible working arrangements or by:
- taking annual leave
- flex leave
- authorised unpaid leave
It applies when, for example, if your child is unexpectedly admitted to hospital.
Service directors are authorised to grant:
- up to 1 week’s leave of absence on full pay
- 1 week’s leave of absence on half pay
Should the unthinkable happen, and you were to lose a child under 18 years or have suffered still birth from week 24 onwards, we offer 2 weeks paid bereavement leave and the maternity scheme may apply, please contact your manager or HR for further advice.
It may also be comforting to know that service directors are authorised to grant up to 4 weeks paid leave of absence to an employee needing to care for a chronically sick or terminally ill member of their immediate family should your child take expectantly seriously ill.
Your service director and the service director for HR will consider granting a further period of 3 months at half-pay following an examination of the circumstances.
There are many conditions around the details of bereavement leave and caring for chronic or terminally ill children and family members, so please refer to the compassionate and special leave procedure to ensure you're clear on your entitlement.
You'll need to complete the compassionate and special leave request form and send it to your line manager.
You must have one year’s continuous service with us by the time you plan to take parental leave to qualify.
As parents (or adoptive parents) of children who are under 18 years old you have a statutory right to apply for parental leave.
All requests must be made in writing by completing the appropriate compassionate and special leave request form, and attaching any relevant documentation.
Both mothers and fathers can apply for parental leave providing you are named on the child’s birth certificate or have parental or guardian responsibility under the law.
The entitlement to parental leave is 18 weeks (in total) unpaid leave for each child, subject to a maximum entitlement of 4 weeks unpaid leave per year. Conditions apply so please refer to the compassionate and special leave procedure.
If you're on maternity leave and wish to extend it by 4 weeks, your manager may consider such a request. However, the granting of such requests will be dependent on the demand of the service.
If parental leave is granted following a period of maternity leave, this period will not count towards the required return to work period of 3 months for occupational maternity pay purposes.
Wherever possible, requests for parental leave will be facilitated. However in exceptional circumstances and for operational reasons, we may need to postpone approval for parental leave for a period not exceeding 6 calendar months.
A postponement of parental leave may not happen where parental leave has been requested immediately after childbirth or immediately after placement for adoption.
Anyone who works at Luton can make a flexible working request. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked here or how many hours you work.
You can usually only make one formal request every 12 months but if things change and you need to make another request, talk to your manager and see what can be arranged.
You may request to work flexibly for any reason, such as:
- reduction of hours for a better work life balance
- change of working pattern to assist with caring responsibilities
- to help with the commute to work
Whatever the reason for your request the council will fulfil its duty to consider it reasonably. Read these guidelines to find out more.