- Employees must have completed one year's service with an employer to qualify.
- 18 weeks of unpaid leave can be taken up to the child's fifth birthday.
- Leave may be taken straight after the birth or adoption or following a period of maternity leave.
- Employees will need to request leave giving at least 21 days notice before the intended start date.
- Employers may ask for the notice to be in writing.
If an employee has completed one year's service with an employer, they are entitled to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave for each child born or adopted. The leave can start once the child is born or placed for adoption, or as soon as the employee has completed a year's service, whichever is later. Employees can take it at any time up to the child's fifth birthday (or until five years after placement in the case of adoption). If the child has disabilities, they can take 18 weeks up to the child's 18th birthday.
A request should be made to an employer giving 21 days notice of the start date of the parental leave, the employer may ask for this to be in writing. As long as the employee qualifies for parental leave and gives the employer the correct notice the employee should be able to take parental leave at any time.
To take parental leave straight after the birth or adoption of a child, an employee should give notice 21 days before the beginning of the expected week of childbirth or placement. In cases where this may not be possible they should give notice to the employer as soon as possible. For example, if a child is born prematurely or where less than 21 days notice is given that a child is to be placed with you for adoption.
Parental leave should be taken in blocks of a week or multiples of a week, and should not be taken as "odd" days off, unless the employer agrees otherwise or the child is disabled. Employees cannot take off more than four weeks during a year. A week is based on an employees working pattern.
An employee will remain employed while on parental leave and some terms of the contract, such as contractual notice and redundancy terms, still apply.
Reform of flexible parental leave
Under a new system of flexible parental leave, parents will be able to choose how they share care of their child in the first year after birth. Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave; however, working parents will be able to opt to share the leave.
Mothers will have to take at least the initial two weeks of leave following the birth as a recovery period. Following that they can choose to end the maternity leave and the parents can opt to share the remaining leave as flexible parental leave.
The Government will legislate on this next year and will introduce the changes to flexible parental leave in 2015. Further information is available from GOV.UK - Reform of flexible parental leave.