Changes to Unpaid Parental Leave Entitlement

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The right to take unpaid parental leave currently applies to parents (or anyone with parental responsibility) of children under the age of five (or 18 if the child is disabled). With effect from 5th April 2015, the right to take 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave at any time up to the child’s 18th birthday will be extended to parents of any child under the age of 18 years.

The following existing rules will still apply:
  • Employees must have one year’s continuous service
  • The limit on how much parental leave each parent can take in a rolling year is 4 weeks for each child (unless the employer agrees otherwise).
  • Parental leave must be taken in whole weeks, rather than individual days, unless the employer agrees otherwise, or if the child is disabled.
  • Employees must give 21 days’ notice before their intended start date. If they or their partner are having a baby or adopting, it’s 21 days before the week the baby or child is expected.
  • Employers can postpone a request for unpaid parental leave for a period of up to six months if they consider the leave would unduly disrupt the operations of the business (except immediately after the birth or placement of a child for adoption).
  • Unpaid parental leave applies to an individual child, not to an individual employment.
Employers are not required to keep statutory records of parental leave, but will find it useful to do so for their own purposes and to deal with potential requests when an employee changes jobs.

In practice, this change may mean employers will need to manage an increased number of parental leave requests during periods that can be difficult for parents who work, such as school holidays, and should work with employees to accommodate their requests whenever possible.

Unpaid parental leave should not be confused with the new shared parental leave (“SPL”) rights.

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