A guide to writing your parental leave policy: The most important things to think about before you get started

When it comes to drafting your parental leave policy, starting from scratch can feel daunting. That's why we've put together this guide to help you get started, with key areas to think about and the different approaches you might want to take with your policy.

min read

Creating a solid parental leave policy is key to ensuring employees get the support they need when they start or build their families.

Drafting your parental leave policy can be overwhelming and it's difficult to know where to start. There are so many things to consider, from how much time you give your employees to eligibility criteria. We're here to help make that process a little bit easier for you. In this guide, we've outlined the key areas to think about when you're drafting your parental leave policy.

Before we start, a quick reminder that writing an inclusive parental leave policy is super important to make sure every member of the team feels supported, no matter their gender identity, relationship status, or their path to parenthood. For example, we say parental leave rather than maternal or paternal leave. By using inclusive language and terms, you can make sure that everyone, from single parents to same-sex couples to adoptive parents, feels seen and valued.

Every company is unique and it's important to tailor your policy to align with your company culture. The following outline is by no means a must-follow blueprint, but a series of suggestions to help show you what a parental leave policy could look like, and examples from companies we think have written theirs well. We'll be releasing our very own Fertifa parental leave policy in the next few months, so keep an eye out for that too. If you'd like a sneak preview, email us at enquiries@fertifa.com.

What is a parental leave policy?

A parental leave policy outlines the parental leave period, rights, and entitlements of employees who need time off from work to care for their newborn or newly adopted child. It encompasses various types of leave, including maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, and other forms of parental leave. If you want to check out what the statutory entitlement is in the UK, check out the gov.uk site. This policy can be written into employment contracts, and posted on your company's internal HR portal or system, with any other policies your company may have - for example a compassionate leave policy, a fertility policy, or a menopause policy.

A checklist for your parental leave policy

When drafting your company's parental leave policy, we would suggest including the following elements. These are the most important things to think about when drafting your policy.

  • The scope and purpose of your policy
  • Eligibility criteria for taking parental leave, including legal requirements and contract of employment
  • Entitlements and benefits for eligible employees, such as parental leave entitlement and any additional benefits
  • Notice requirements for requesting parental leave, including the correct notice period and request in writing
  • The processes and procedures for booking and returning from leave, including giving notice of intention to take parental leave, booking parental leave, and returning to work

Let's elaborate

The scope and purpose of your policy

In this part of the policy, it's important to outline what a parental leave policy is, why your company believes in having one, and what employees can expect to find as they keep reading. The scope of parental leave policies may vary depending on the legal requirements and your wider company policies.

To truly embody inclusivity in your policy, it's important to ensure its scope is as wide as possible, to account for all paths to parenthood. For example, don't limit parental leave to those with a biological child or those in specific relationship dynamics. Single parents, fathers, same-sex couples, adoptive parents, and surrogate parents all need time off to care for their new child, regardless of their journey to becoming a parent.


Lay out the criteria employees need to meet in order to qualify as an eligible employee for leave. In other words, outline how someone can qualify as an eligible parent. It's important to take into account both legal requirements and any additional criteria your company has in place. This might include factors like length of service, employment status, and any specific requirements related to the type of leave they're requesting (for example, maternity, paternity, adoption). Be clear and transparent about what makes someone an eligible parent and what doesn't, so there's no confusion or misunderstandings down the line.

Drafting an inclusive policy for all parents is crucial here. There are lots of different paths to parenthood, and not every journey will look the same. Make sure your policy extends to all types of families, regardless of gender, marital status, sexual orientation, or journey to parenthood.

Entitlements and benefits

This part of your policy should outline the benefits and entitlements employees can expect when they're getting ready to welcome a new addition to their family. Think about things like the duration of leave, whether it's paid or unpaid, and any additional perks you can offer, like flexible work arrangements or childcare support. The goal here is to make sure your policy supports employees through this important time in their lives, so they can focus on their family without worrying about work.

In terms of statutory parental leave in the UK, it isn't paid. Parents are entitled to 18 weeks’ leave for each child and adopted child, up to their 18th birthday. Once a child has reached their 18th birthday, parental leave no longer applies. The statutory requirement for how much parental leave each parent can take in a 12-month period is 4 weeks for each child. However, this is the minimum legal allowance. If you'd like to offer more, this is up to your discretion as the employer!

When can parental leave be taken?

In the UK, parental leave can usually be taken at any time within a specified period after the birth or adoption of a child. Employees are required to give notice of their parental leave request and book their leave in advance, subject to your approval as the employer.

Notice requirements

When it comes to requesting parental leave, clarity is key. Lay out clear guidelines for how and when employees should notify HR of their intention to take leave. This might include details on the notice period required, the method of notification (email, written request, etc.), and any documentation they need to provide to support their request. Make sure employees understand what's outlined in their employment contracts, including who to contact and what information they need to include, so there's no confusion or delays when it's time to start planning their leave.

Processes and procedures

Once the leave request is in, it's time to put your procedures into action. This is where you outline the step-by-step process employees need to follow, from booking their leave to returning to work. Provide guidance on everything from how to formally request leave to any paperwork or documentation they need to complete. Be sure to include information on how their leave will impact things like benefits and seniority, and what they need to do to ensure a smooth transition back to work when the time comes.

It's also important to include guidance on how employees should handle unforeseen circumstances that may arise during their parental leave. And remember, communication is key. Make sure employees know who to reach out to if they have questions or need support along the way, whether it's their direct line manager or a member of your HR or People team.

Policy review

Remember, this policy should be a live and working document. Parental leave policies should be reviewed regularly and updated to stay on top of any legal requirements and stay true to your company culture. Whenever there's a small tweak or bigger change, make sure to communicate this with the entire company. It can be helpful to seek legal advice while you're first writing the policy, as well as getting additional legal advice with any changes you make.

What is the employer's responsibility during parental leave?

During parental leave, employers have a key role in supporting their employees. They're responsible for ensuring that the transition into and out of leave is as smooth as possible. This includes providing clear communication about the leave process, maintaining confidentiality, and being understanding and accommodating of the employee's needs. Employers should also ensure that any benefits or entitlements are upheld during the leave period and that the employee feels valued and supported throughout their time away. Essentially, it's all about being there for your team and helping them navigate this important chapter in their lives with ease and confidence.

Ready to set up your cover?

Now that you've got the framework for creating a comprehensive parental leave policy, it's time to put it into action. Remember, your policy should reflect the values and priorities of your company while also meeting the needs of your employees. Take the time to tailor it to your unique workplace culture and ensure it complies with legal requirements. And don't forget to keep the lines of communication open with your team—let them know about the new policy, answer any questions they may have, and listen to their feedback.

By creating a supportive and inclusive parental leave policy, you're not just meeting a legal obligation; you're showing your employees that you value their wellbeing and are committed to helping them thrive both at work and at home.

If you need support on any of the above or want to discover how Fertifa can help you meet your HR goals, please don’t hesitate to get in touch 💜