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The right to parental leave

If you have at least one year's continuous service with your employer and are responsible for a child aged under 18 you are entitled to 18 weeks (unpaid) leave per child to look after your child


This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.


To qualify for parental leave, you must be a parent (named on the birth certificate), adoptive parent, or have acquired legal parental responsibility for the child.


How can I take parental leave?

Leave can be taken in blocks of a week (and usually up to four weeks in a year), or blocks of a day if the leave is to care for a disabled child (again, usually up to a maximum of four weeks a year). Collective or workforce agreements may allow employees to take more than four weeks off in a year.

You must give at least 21 days' notice to your employer in order to take parental leave (but see below).

The leave must be taken by the child's 18th birthday.

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Can my employer postpone my parental leave?

Parental leave can be postponed by employers if taking leave at the time requested would cause particular disruption to the organisation, eg during a seasonal peak in work or if multiple requests for parental leave are made at the same time.

If leave is postponed, employers must inform the employee within seven days of the request for leave being made, and the leave must be granted within six months.

Parental leave cannot be postponed if it has been requested for the time immediately after the birth of a child or the start of an adoption placement.

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Learning and education

Whether it is a short evening course or a degree, taking on a new learning activity can be of real value to carers.

At times you may feel that your whole world revolves around caring, without much room in it for you.

Many carers find that having an activity outside of their caring role is important to them, giving them a sense of identity and boosting their confidence. One way to do this is through learning. Whether it is a short evening course or a degree, it can be of real value to carers.

If you would like to take up learning again but are not sure where to start you might like to begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want to develop an existing interest or skill or learn a new one?
  • Where do you want to do your course – do you want to go to an adult education centre or college? Do you want to do distance learning or e-learning?
  • How much time do you want to spend learning?
  • What level of the course do you want to do?
  • What can you gain through learning?

If you do decide to study, this could affect your entitlement to benefits so please check and seek advice.

If you want to start work or return to work

At some point in your caring role you may decide you want to combine work with caring, or you may want to work if your caring role changes or ends.

The thought of working for the first time, or getting back into work, may feel like a big step. A good start is to think about what job you might want by recognising your skills and interests, and finding out what support might be available to help you take this step.

If you are claiming benefits, then working or studying might impact these benefits, and so it would be a good idea to get a benefit check before you make any decisions – the Carers UK Adviceline can carry out a benefit check for you.


Recognising your skills and interests

If you are not sure what you would like to do and where to begin, start by recognising the skills and interests you have.

Think about the skills you have gained from:

  • any paid work that you have done
  • any volunteering work that you have done
  • your role as a carer

Some examples of the sort of skills you might have gained from your role as a carer:

  • prioritising and organising
  • time management
  • managing a budget
  • managing a schedule
  • negotiating with professionals
  • learning new skills quickly and efficiently (ie if you needed to learn how to move and handle someone, use certain equipment or administer medication)

Think about the interests you have:

  • what you enjoy doing
  • how you would like to use your skills
  • things you miss doing that you once did, eg from previous work or volunteering

You could have a look on some careers websites to try and identify the sort of job which might match your skills and interests.

The National Careers Service has a Skills Health Check which involves a set of quizzes and activities designed to help you explore your skills and interests. This might be useful to help you decide what job might be right for you.

Once you have identified the kind of jobs which might match your skills and interests, you could then have a look on the National Careers Service Job Profiles, which explain the skills and qualifications needed to get into jobs, what the work would be like, the pay you could expect and what the career prospects are.

Once you have identified possible jobs which might match your skills and interests, and know what is needed to try and apply for a job in that field, you could see if you could get any support with any training you might need (as well as learning new things, training could also help to build your confidence or refresh skills you used to have).

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Support in starting work or returning to work

If you are trying to work out whether any training courses would be suitable for the sort of jobs you want, you could speak to the National Careers Service, as they have advisers who can provide advice, information and guidance on skills and learning.

If you know what sort of course you want to do, you can search for specific courses on the National Careers Service website, and you could also speak to any local schools, colleges or Universities to see if they have any courses which would be suitable.

Sometimes local advice agencies, like carers organisations, might know of any local training courses which might be suitable for carers.

If you need some help with the cost of any courses, then you could try the following:

  • if you are still looking after someone, you could have a carer’s assessment – this would look at your caring role and whether you need any support – if a training course is an ‘eligible need’ then the local council might be able to help with the cost
  • there are sometimes grants you can apply for –you could see if there are any local grants by contacting a local advice agency, such as a carer’s organisation – you could also run a more general grants search with a charity called Turn 2 Us who have a database of lots of different grant giving organisations
  • there are sometimes specific education grants and bursaries that you can apply for – the gov.uk website has some information on grants and bursaries for adult learners
  • local educational establishments sometimes offer discounts to people on certain benefits, so if you are claiming benefits or are on a low income, it is worth finding out what discounts or concessions your local educational establishments offer

You might also find that getting some additional support in place for the person you are looking after would help you to undertake training or start work. There are different ways of trying to access additional support, such as through assessments from the local council/trust, or by arranging support privately. For further information on getting some additional support you can see the section called 'Getting support for you and/or the person you are looking after whilst you are in work'.

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The impact on your benefits

If you are no longer looking after someone and/or if you undertake training or start working, your benefits might be affected.

As an example, one of the conditions for Carer’s Allowance is that you cannot be in full time education and another condition is that you cannot earn over £116 a week (after deductions).

Other benefits or tax credits you are getting might also be affected.

It is therefore a good idea to get a benefit check, if you are thinking of doing a training course or starting work, to check what your financial situation would be – the Carers UK Adviceline can carry out a benefit check for you.

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If you are thinking of leaving work

If you are thinking of leaving work it is important to consider the full implications it could have on your income, quality of life and future pension entitlements.

Before you make the decision to leave work or reduce your hours, it is important to consider the implications of doing this, and to explore any options which might make juggling work and care more manageable.


Your rights in work

There are statutory rights that most carers have in work, such as the right to request flexible working, the right to not be discriminated against, the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with an emergency or an unforeseen matter involving a dependant and the right to parental leave.

For a summary of the statutory rights in work which may be of interest to you as a carer you can download our factsheet here.

As well as statutory rights, there might be additional contractual rights that you have in your work, and so it is always worth checking your contract of employment, staff handbook, HR policies or letter of appointment to see if you have any contractual rights on top of your statutory rights.

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Additional support in work

As well as your statutory rights in work there might be additional support you can get to help you juggle work and care.

You might have contractual rights which can be more generous that your statutory rights and/or you might find that your workplace has support for carers in place. To find out whether there is a carer’s policy or any extra support for carers in your workplace, you could check your contract of employment, staff handbook, HR policies or letter of appointment.

You might also find that getting some additional support in place for the person you are looking after would help you to remain in work. There are different ways of trying to access additional support, such as through assessments from the local council/trust, or by arranging support privately. For further information on getting some additional support you can see the section called 'Getting support for you and/or the person you are looking after whilst you are in work'.

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Your financial situation if you were to leave work or reduce your hours

Before you make any decisions about leaving work or reducing your hours, it’s important to consider the impact this will have on your current financial situation and your future pension entitlement.

If you do leave work or reduce your hours then you may be able to look into claiming Carer's Allowance, and you may also be able to look into claiming other benefits and/or tax credits. However, eligibility for Carer's Allowance and other benefits and tax credits would depend on your circumstances. It is therefore a good idea to get a benefit check before you make any decisions, to see what your financial situation would look like if you were to leave work or reduce your hours. For information on benefits and tax credits you can view the section of our website called ‘Help with benefits’.The Carers UK Adviceline can carry out a benefit check for you.

If you would no longer be paying, or treated as paying, National Insurance (NI) through work, then you should consider the impact this will have on your NI record, as this will impact your future pension entitlement. Some benefits, such as Carer’s Allowance, can give NI contribution credits, which can help to protect your record. If you can’t claim Carer’s Allowance you may be able to claim Carer’s Credit to help protect your record. For further information you can see the section of our website called 'Help with your pension'.

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Additional support in work

As well as your statutory rights in work there might be additional support you can get to help you juggle work and care.

You might have contractual rights which can be more generous that your statutory rights and/or you might find that your workplace has support for carers in place.

There might also be support that you and/or the person you are looking after could get, which might put your mind at ease whilst you are in work – for example a care worker for the person you are looking after so you know that they are safe.

Note: For a summary of the statutory rights in work which may be of interest to you as a carer you can download our factsheet here.


Telling your employer about your caring role

It is your choice whether to tell your employer about your caring role or not.

There might be extra support for carers in your workplace, and so even if you haven’t told your employer about your caring role, it would still be worth finding out what extra support, if any, might be available.

To find out whether there is a carer’s policy or any extra support for carers in your workplace, you could check your contract of employment, staff handbook, HR policies or letter of appointment.

If there is a carer’s policy then what support it might offer will depend on your workplace, however some carer’s policies offer things such as:

  • carers leave (paid or unpaid)
  • time off to accompany the person you are looking after to appointments (paid or unpaid)
  • a carers support group or carers contact
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Telling other staff about your caring role

Colleagues can be very supportive, and it may help simply to discuss your situation with someone you can trust at work.

You may find that other colleagues also have caring responsibilities, and that together you are more able to talk to your employer about how you can be supported, such as setting up a support group or employee network.

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Getting support for you and/or the person you are looking after whilst you are in work

If you feel as though getting some additional support in place for the person you are looking after would help you to juggle work and care, then you could explore the following options.

Assessments from the local council/trust

You and the person you are looking after could get assessments from their local council/trust.

As assessment for the person you are looking after would look at their care and support needs. Some examples of the sort of support that might be an outcome of an assessment for the person you are looking after include a care worker, a place at a day centre, meals delivered to their home, equipment and technology to help around the home and adaptations to the home. Depending on the income and capital of the person you are looking after, they might need to contribute towards, or pay the full cost of, any support. For some further information on assessments for the person you are looking after you can see the section of our website called 'needs assessment'.

As assessment for you as a carer would look at your caring role, and whether you need any support in this role. For some further information on assessments for you as a carer you can see the section of our website called 'carer's assessment'.

Arranging care and support privately

If you would rather arrange care and support privately, then you could see if your local council/trust has a list of approved care providers in the area. You could also search on the following websites:

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