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Increasing Rights for Parents

As of 8 March the entitlement to parental leave increased.  Many employers are not sure what parental leave is, when it should be used and how to deal with any request to take leave. 

What is parental leave for?

The law on parental leave entitles eligible employees to unpaid parental leave from their work to look after their child’s welfare, for example this can be to settle children into new childcare arrangements or even just to spend more time with their children.

Who is eligible?

An employee who has been employed by the employer for more than one year.  The employee must have parental responsibility for the child and be named on the child’s birth or adoption certificate.

What is the entitlement?

Parental leave is unpaid and is for a maximum of 18 weeks per child. The child must be under 5 (or 18 for children who qualify for disability living allowance).

A maximum of 4 weeks parental leave can be taken in any one year (unless the employer agrees otherwise).  Again, unless an employer agrees otherwise, or the child is disabled, leave should be taken in blocks of one week.  A ‘week’ equals the length of time an employee normally works in a week.

The employee’s employment rights, such as the right to pay and returning to a job are protected during parental leave

Taking leave

Employees must give 21 days’ notice before they intend to start the leave and must confirm the start and end dates in their notice. Unless an employer requests the notice doesn’t have to be in writing.

Leave can be delayed by the employer if it would cause significant disruption to the business. However this argument will not prevent leave being taken if it’s being taken by the father or partner immediately after the birth or adoption of a child or if it means an employee would no longer qualify for parental leave – eg postponing it until after the child’s 5th birthday.

If parental leave is postponed, the employer must write explaining why within 7 days of the original request and suggest a new start date – this must be within 6 months of the requested start date and the employer cannot change the amount of leave being requested.

For further information or advice, please contact Sarah Fitzpatrick at sarah.fitzpatrick@collingwoodlegal.com, or telephone Sarah on 0191 282 2888.

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