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Parental Leave

Parental leave is for employees to take time off from work to look after the child's welfare, this leave is normally unpaid. Parental Leave should not be confused with Shared Parental Leave which is a different scheme coming into force from 1 December 2014.

Key points

  • 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.

Reforms - Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave is a new right that will enable eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed. This could mean that the mother or adopter shares some of the leave with her partner, perhaps returning to work for part of the time and then resuming leave at a later date.

The regulations are currently before parliament and are due to come into force 1 December 2014. The options to use the new Shared Parental Leave rights will apply for parents who meet the eligibility criteria, where a baby is due to be born on or after 5 April 2015, or for children who are placed for adoption on or after that date.

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