35.1 NHS employers should provide employees with access to leave arrangements which support them in balancing their work responsibilities with their personal commitments. This form of leave should cover a wide range of needs including, but not limited to, parental responsibilities, genuine domestic emergencies and bereavement, and should take into account all religion or belief obligations and associated activities. All forms of leave should have regard to legal requirements and the need to ensure equity of access across all equality strands.
35.2 Leave arrangements should be part of an integrated policy of efficient and employee friendly employment practises, and this Section should be seen as operating in conjunction with other provisions, particularly the Employment Break Scheme, Flexing Work Positively and the Caring for Children and Adults Sections.
35.3 Arrangements should be agreed between employers and local staff representatives. Any leave will need to be agreed by employees’ line managers and any disputes handled according to the relevant local policies.
35.4 A dependent is someone who is married to, is a civil partner, or a partner (whether opposite or same sex) “a near relative” or someone who lives at the same address as the employee. A relative for this purpose includes: children, parents, parents-in-law, adult children, adopted adult children, siblings (including those who are in-laws), uncles, aunts, grandparents and step relatives or is someone who relies on the employee in a particular emergency.
Forms of leave: parental leave
35.5 This should be a separate provision from either maternity or maternity support (paternity) leave, adoption leave, and Shared Parental Leave (SPL), and should provide a non-transferable individual right to at least 18 weeks’ leave. Leave is normally unpaid, but may be paid by local agreement.
35.6 Parental leave should be applicable to any employee in the NHS who has nominated caring responsibility for a child under age 18.
35.7 Leave arrangements need to be as flexible as possible, so that the leave may be taken in a variety of ways, by local agreement. Parental leave can be added to periods of maternity support (paternity) leave, maternity leave, adoption leave, and Shared Parental Leave.
35.8 Notice periods should not be unnecessarily lengthy and should reflect the period of leave required. Employers should only postpone leave in exceptional circumstances and give written reasons. Employees may also postpone or cancel leave that has been booked with local agreement.
35.9 During parental leave the employee retains all of his/her contractual rights, except remuneration and should return to the same job after it. Pension rights and contributions shall be dealt with in accordance with NHS Superannuation Regulations. Periods of parental leave should be regarded as continuous service.
35.10 It is good practice for employers to maintain contact (within agreed protocols) with employees while they are on parental leave.
Shared Parental Leave
35.11 Eligible employees have a statutory right to request Shared Parental Leave. Employers should have appropriate policies in place to deal with leave requests in line with the ACAS guidance on Shared Parental Leave.
Statutory pay during Shared Parental Leave
35.12 To qualify for statutory pay the employee and their partner must first meet certain qualifying conditions as described in the relevant legislation. Details of the qualifying conditions can be found on the www.gov.uk
Maternity support (paternity) leave and pay and ante-natal leave
35.13 This will apply to the father of the child (including adoptive fathers), the mother’s husband or partner (whether opposite or same sex), or nominated carer.
35.14 NHS organisations have scope for agreeing locally more favourable arrangements where they consider it necessary, or further periods of unpaid leave.
Maternity support (paternity) leave
35.15 All employees are entitled to two weeks’ of ordinary maternity support (paternity) leave which can be taken around the time of the birth or the placement of the child for adoption.
35.16 In addition, employees with babies born or children adopted before 5 April 2015 may be entitled to take up to twenty six weeks of additional maternity support (paternity) leave if their partner has returned to work, the leave can be taken between 20 weeks and one year after the child is born or placed for adoption.
35.17 To qualify for additional maternity support (paternity) leave the employee and their partner must first meet certain qualification criteria. Details of the qualifying conditions and the notification requirements can be found on www.gov.uk
Occupational pay during maternity support (paternity) leave
35.18 There will be an entitlement to two weeks’ occupational ordinary maternity support (paternity) pay. Full pay will be calculated on the basis of the average weekly earnings rules used for calculating occupational maternity pay entitlements. The employee will receive full pay less any statutory paternity pay receivable. Only one period of occupational maternity support (paternity) pay is ordinarily available when there is a multiple birth.
35.19 Eligibility for the two weeks of occupational maternity support (paternity) pay will be 12 months’ continuous service with one or more NHS employer at the beginning of the week in which the baby is due.
35.20 Employees who are not eligible for the two weeks of occupational maternity support (paternity) pay may still be entitled to statutory paternity pay subject to meeting the qualifying conditions described in the relevant legislation. Details of the qualifying conditions can be found on www.gov.uk
Statutory pay during maternity support (paternity) leave
35.21 To qualify for statutory pay in the additional maternity support (paternity) leave period, the employee and their partner must first meet certain qualifying conditions as described in the relevant legislation. Details of the criteria and the notification requirements can be found on www.gov.uk
Rights during additional maternity support (paternity) leave
35.22 Employees who are entitled to additional maternity support (paternity) leave/pay will be entitled to take up to 10 keeping in touch days during the course of the additional maternity support (paternity) leave period. The criteria for keeping in touch days is set out in Section 15 and is based on those used for statutory maternity leave and pay.
35.23 Employees who have taken additional maternity support (paternity) leave will have the right to return to the same job under their original contract and on no less favourable terms and conditions.
Ante natal leave
35.24 Reasonable paid time off to attend ante-natal classes will also be given according to legislation. This also covers the right to unpaid time off to accompany a pregnant woman to appointments for eligible employees.
Adoption leave and pay
35.25 All employees are entitled to take 52 weeks’ adoption leave.
35.26 There will be entitlement to paid occupational adoption leave for employees wishing to adopt a child who is newly placed for adoption.
35.27 It will be available to people wishing to adopt a child who has primary carer responsibilities for that child.
35.28 Where the child is below the age of 18 adoption leave and pay will be in line with the maternity leave and pay provisions set out in this agreement.
35.29 Eligibility for occupational adoption pay will be 12 months’ continuous NHS service ending with the week in which they are notified of being matched with the child for adoption. This will cover the circumstances where employees are newly matched with the child by an adoption agency.
35.30 If there is an established relationship with the child, such as fostering, prior to the adoption, or when a step-parent is adopting a partner’s children, there is scope for local arrangements on the amount of leave and pay in addition to time off for official meetings.
35.31 For adoption placements up to 4 April 2015, if the same employer employs both parents, the period of leave and pay may be shared. One parent should be identified as the primary carer and be entitled to the majority of the leave. The partner of the primary carer is entitled to occupational maternity support leave and pay.
35.32 Reasonable paid time off, to attend official meetings in the adoption process, should also be given according to legislation. This also covers the right to unpaid time off to attend pre-adoption meetings for eligible employees.
35.33 Employees who are not eligible for occupational adoption pay may still be entitled to statutory adoption pay (SAP) subject to the qualifying conditions.
Keeping in touch during the adoption leave period
35.34 Employees will be entitled to keep in touch days (KIT days) in line with the maternity leave and pay provisions as set out in Section 15 of this agreement.
Leave/time off for domestic reasons
35.35 This form of leave should cover a range of needs, from genuine domestic emergencies through to bereavement.
35.36 These provisions should cover all employees.
35.37 Payment may be made by local agreement, but the expectation is that relatively short periods of leave for emergencies will be paid.
35.38 If the need for time off continues, other options may be considered, such as a career break.
35.39 Applicants for the above forms of leave should be entitled to a written explanation if the application is declined.
35.40 Appeals against decisions to decline an application for leave should be made through the grievance procedure.
Monitoring and review
35.41 Employers will need to ensure that their leave policies and procedures operate fairly and transparently and do not advantage any group of staff over another.
35.42 All applications and outcomes should be recorded, and records should cover all information necessary to ensure that there is equitable access to leave provisions. Each leave provision, including applications for and decisions about, should be annually reviewed by employers in partnership with local staff representatives.
35.43 Applications and outcomes should be recorded and monitored in partnership with local staff side representatives, and data analysed and used to review and revise policies and procedures to ensure their continuing effectiveness and equity of access.
Pay circular (AforC) 3/2015: amendment number 35