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Protecting your job during pregnancy or parental leave

An employee can’t lose their job just because they are pregnant or applying for parental leave.

As long as you give the right notice, your employer must keep your job open for you until you return to work if you’re taking up to four weeks’ parental leave (and it’s the first period of parental leave for that child). If you are taking more than four weeks’ parental leave, your employer must keep your job open for you unless your job is defined as a key position or there is a redundancy situation.

If your employer decides that your job is a key position, or there is a redundancy situation, you’ll go into a 26 week 'period of preference' at the end of your parental leave. This means that at any time during this 26 week period, if your employer has a job that is really similar to your job, they must offer it to you first before anyone else.

You don’t keep any job protection or preference rights once your parental leave or period of preference have ended.

You can still lose your job for a good legal reason not connected to your parental situation, for example, serious misconduct, and following a fair and legal process.

Key positions

To decide if your job is a key position, your employer will consider in relation to your particular job:

  • the size of their business or organisation, and 
  • the training period or skills required in your job.

A job may be a key position because it needs special skills, and there aren’t enough people with those skills.  Or it would take too long to train or find someone on a temporary basis to do your job. You can disagree that your job is a key position.

Impact of your job not being kept open on parental leave payments

If your job is not being kept open because it’s a key position or there is a redundancy situation, this doesn’t affect whether you’re able to get parental leave payments. If you’ve started your parental leave and are receiving parental leave payments and then you’re made redundant, you’ll still get up to the full 18 weeks' parental leave payments (that you would otherwise have got).

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