On Friday 8 March, the statutory allowance of unpaid parental leave increased from 13 weeks to 18 weeks per child (subject to an annual maximum of four weeks).

Both mothers and fathers are entitled to use the 18-week allowance up to a child's fifth birthday (or, as was previously the case, 18th birthday if the child has disabilities). Adoptive parents can also utilise the allowance up to the fifth anniversary of adoption (or up to the child's 18th birthday – whichever is sooner).

The new legislation implements the European 'Parental Leave Directive', and complements the Government's recent reforms designed to enhance flexibility in the workplace.

Where possible, 21 days' notice of intention to take unpaid parental leave should be provided by employees, and the leave taken in week-long 'blocks'.

Impact on Employers

There has been a relatively low uptake of unpaid parental leave to date, and so this is perhaps unlikely to change considerably on account of the extended entitlement. However, employers should ensure that their policies are updated to reflect the change.

Further change is expected in 2015, with the revised allowance set to apply to all children up to the age of 18.