From tomorrow, the right to unpaid parental leave will be extended. The change is being made to implement a revised EU Parental Leave Directive which was originally due for implementation in March 2012. However, the Government decided to take advantage of a period of 12 months’ grace available under the Directive to defer making the change.
Under existing law, parents who have been employed for one year or more and who have, or expect to have, responsibility for a child have the right to take unpaid parental leave to care for their children in addition to any maternity, paternity or adoption leave they may qualify for. This is currently an entitlement to 13 weeks’ leave per child, which can be taken before a child’s 5th birthday or the 5th anniversary of their placement for adoption, but, in the case of a child eligible for a disability living allowance, the entitlement is to 18 weeks’ leave to be taken at any time before the child’s 18th birthday. Although employers and parents can agree more flexible arrangements, under the statutory scheme, no more than 4 weeks' leave can be taken in any one year and leave must be taken in one-week blocks.
What is changing?
From tomorrow, the Parental Leave (EU Directive) Regulations 2013 (the Regulations) will amend UK legislation to extend the total period of unpaid leave available to eligible employees to 18 weeks per parent per child.
On the distant horizon
Much further into the future, the Government plans to relax the age restrictions on taking unpaid parental leave. It proposes that, from 2015, all parents will have until the child’s 18th birthday to take their leave entitlement, creating a much wider window of opportunity. However, this proposal has not been included in the Children and Families Bill which is currently on its way through Parliament.
These changes are not affected by, nor do they impact on, the Government’s announcement that it will implement, in 2015, a new statutory shared parental leave scheme. These changes are being implemented by the Children and Families Bill, further detail on which can be obtained from our recent briefing.