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Changes in parental leave

Posted on 25th March 2013
New legislation

In 2011 Government published its consultation on modern work places which proposed various changes to the arrangements for unpaid parental leave. These included the removal of the requirement for a qualifying period of a year's service, extension of the age limit by which parental leave may be taken to the child's 8th, 12th, 16th or 18th birthday and increasing the amount of leave that could be taken per child from 13 weeks to 18 weeks.

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Adrian Green Adrian
Green
Senior Employment Law Solicitor Telephone: 01473 694403

Only one of these changes has been implemented. Effective from 8 March 2013, the amount of unpaid parental leave that can be taken has been increased from 13 weeks to 18 weeks. This brings it in line with the requirements of the appropriate European Directive. Beyond this change there is not much more to say!

Parental leave | A reminder of the key provisions

As a reminder, the right to take unpaid parental leave has been with us since 2003. Parental leave is available to birth and adoptive parents and also to anyone who has, or expects to have, parental responsibility for a child.

To be eligible to take parental leave an employee must:

  • have been continuously employed for a period of not less than one year; and
  • have, or expect to have, responsibility for a child.
  • The leave must be taken for the purpose of caring for that child.
The right to take parental leave applies to each child and therefore a parent with one child may take up to 18 weeks' parental leave whereas a parent with two children may take up to 36 weeks' parental leave.

Timing of leave

Parental leave may be taken at any time before the child's fifth birthday or before the fifth anniversary of the date of placement in the case of an adopted child. If the child is entitled to disability living allowance then parental leave may be taken at any time up to the child's eighteenth birthday.

Parental leave has to be taken in blocks of at least one week unless the child is disabled in which case this restriction does not apply. Additionally, no more than four weeks' leave per child may be taken in any one year.

Notice

To be entitled to take parental leave an employee must give at least 21 days' notice of their intention to take parental leave. An employer has the right to postpone the taking of parental leave for up to a period of six months.

Although parental leave under the statutory scheme is unpaid employers are, of course, entitled to make discretionary or contractual payments to any employees who take parental leave.

What the future holds in 2015

The government proposes bringing in a new "shared parental leave" in 2015. This is a scheme that is designed to allow parents to share the statutory maternity leave and pay that is currently only available to mothers. The new shared parental leave scheme will not affect the current parental leave provisions which will remain intact and run alongside the new regime.

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