Unpaid parental or dependants’ care leave

By Tolley in association with Hannah Freeman at Old Square Chambers

The following Employment Tax guidance note by Tolley in association with Hannah Freeman at Old Square Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Unpaid parental or dependants’ care leave
  • Unpaid parental leave
  • Right to time off to care for dependants

Please note that all SI and case references in this guidance note are subscription sensitive.

Unpaid parental leave

The rules on unpaid parental leave are contained in the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 (‘the MPL Regulations’). The Government guidance on unpaid parental leave can be found on the GOV.UK website .

SI 1999/3312

The terms on which parental leave is taken may be agreed through a collective or workforce agreement incorporated into individual contracts, but in the absence of such an agreement, the default provisions set out in the Regulations apply. The position set out below is as prescribed by the default provisions.


The right to parental leave applies to both parents and in respect of adopted as well as natural children. The rights apply to full-time and part-time employees, provided that they have at least one year of continuous service (at the date of seeking to take leave) and have or expect to have parental responsibility for a child or are registered under the relevant legislation as the child’s father. ‘Parental responsibility for a child’ has the meaning given by the Children Act 1989, s 3 (subscription sensitive).

Foster parents are not eligible unless they have secured parental responsibility through the courts or are fostering under the ‘fostering for adoption’ scheme.

The right to take leave applies up to the child’s 18th birthday.

The right is to take leave for the purpose of caring for a child. The MPL Regulations do not define ‘caring for a child’. The Government guidance  gives the following examples of what this might include:

  • spending more time with the child
  • looking at new schools
  • settling a child into new childcare arrangements
  • spending more time

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