From 7th April 2013, employees with at least one years service can apply to take a total of 18 weeks unpaid parental leave up to their child’s fifth birthday.
Previously, working parents could take a total of 13 weeks leave from either the child’s birth or date of placement for adoption.
Parents of children with disabilities can apply for parental leave up to their child’s 18th birthday.
The same procedural rules apply to these extended rights so that a qualifying employee needs to give 21 days notice of when they want the leave to start (or 21 days of the expected birth date or adoption placement date).
An employer can defer the leave for business reasons but only for a period of up to six months.
Note that from 2015 all parents will have the right to take up to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave up to their child’s 18th birthday.
Leave must be taken in blocks of at least one week rather than odd days and usually an employee will be restricted from taking more than 4 weeks parental leave per year, although this can be varied by agreement with the employer.
Take up of parental leave is still likely to be fairly low as it is unpaid. However note that from 2015 parents will be able to share a period of paid parental leave, similar to the current maternity leave arrangements, and much of this leave can be paid on a similar basis to SMP.
The increase of the age limit of the child for unpaid parental leave in 2015 may also encourage parents of older children to exercise this entitlement during particular periods of their child’s life, for example a change of schools, or over an exam period.
For more information about how parental leave works, contact Springhouse Solicitors.