Extension of Parental Leave Entitlement

New draft regulations are in place to take effect on 5 April 2015 with regards to Parental Leave.

Currently, employees with one year’s continuous service are entitled to up to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave to care for their child or a child for whom they have parental responsibility. This leave is to be taken before the child’s fifth birthday (unless the child is disabled) or, in the case of adoption, within five years of the child’s placement with the family.

However, the new regulations will mean that, instead of having to take Parental Leave by the child’s 5th birthday, parents will be able to take their entitlement at any time up until their child’s 18th birthday. Parental Leave should not be confused with the new Shared Parental Leave (“SPL”) rights which come into force December 2014. Shared Parental Leave will allow parents to share time off work between them after the birth or adoption of their child if the parent/employee taking leave returns to work earlier than originally planned and is separate to Parental Leave.

The effect of this change to regulation will mean that employers may need to be prepared for an increased number of Parental Leave requests during times such as school holidays and exam times, where parents usually require time off. It should be noted that employers can postpone an employee’s request for Parental Leave, under the Statutory Default Scheme, for a period of up to six months if it deems taking leave would ‘unduly disrupt the operations of the business’. The exception to this, of course, is immediately after the birth of the child or the placement of an adopted child.