Readers may recall that we covered the announcement of new family friendly rights in our November 2012 ebulletin (please see our article here). With particular reference to parental leave, the Government has confirmed that the changes to parental leave will be brought in force from 8 March 2013. The change is to bring UK legislation in line with an EU Directive.
Parental leave currently entitles a qualifying parent to unpaid parental leave of up to 13 weeks (or 18 weeks where a child is entitled to a disability living allowance) for each child for the purpose of caring for that child. This will increase to 18 weeks from 8 March 2013.
In order to qualify for parental leave, an employee must, at the time the leave is to be taken, have been continuously employed for one year and have, or expect to have, responsibility for a child. Therefore, this will include guardians and adopters.
Parental leave can be taken at any time before the child’s 5th birthday, before the fifth anniversary of the date of placement in the case of an adopted child, or before the child’s eighteenth birthday in the case of a child entitled to a disability living allowance. Readers should note that the relevant age of the child will be changed to 18 in 2015 – helpful for parents to deal with teenage tantrums!
A qualifying parent is also entitled to benefit from certain contractual rights and obligations during the period of parental leave absence and to be able to return to the same job or a suitable alternative role after the leave ends. Employees are not entitled to take parental leave for less than one week or in anything other than multiples of a week. Employers and employees should note that parental leave is per child only and does not mean that an employee can have their full parental leave entitlement with each different employer if they change jobs.
In addition to the increase in the amount of parental leave, the right to request a contract variation on return to work following a period of parental leave will also be extended to agency workers from 8 March 2013.
It is relatively rare for employees in the UK to take parental leave at the moment so it will be interesting to see whether these changes result in increased take-up!
If you need advice on family friendly rights, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).
Please note that this update is not intended to be exhaustive or be a substitute for legal advice. The application of the law in this area will often depend upon the specific facts and you are advised to seek specific advice on any given scenario.