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Lawyer Crystal Bolton outlines upcoming changes in parental leave.
Employees can take time off work in the form of Parental Leave to look after a child’s welfare. This leave is usually unpaid and should not be confused with Shared Parental Leave which came into force on 1 December 2014. Under current legislation Parental Leave can be taken up to the child’s fifth birthday or up to the child’s 18th birthday if the child has disabilities. On 5 April 2015 this age limit will increase to 18 for all children.
After completing one year’s continuous service with an employer, an employee is entitled to 18 weeks unpaid Parental Leave for each child born or adopted. You can take this leave straight after the child is born or placed for adoption or following a period of maternity leave. You can apply to take Parental Leave as soon as you complete a year’s service.
In order to take Parental Leave you will need to make a request to your employer giving at least 21 days’ notice of the date on which you intend to start the leave. Your employer may ask for this notice to be given in writing. If you wish to take Parental Leave straight after your child is born or adopted, you should give notice 21 days before the beginning of the expected week of birth or placement. If this is not possible (i.e. if your child is born prematurely or you are given less than 21 days’ notice of placement) you should give notice to your employer as soon as possible.
Provided you give the correct notice to your employer and you qualify for Parental Leave, you should be able to take it at any time.
You should not take “odd” days off, unless your child is disabled or your employer agrees otherwise – Parental Leave should be taken in blocks or multiples of a week (based on your working pattern). You cannot take more than four weeks during any year.
Whilst you are on Parental Leave you will remain employed and some terms of your contract still apply, such as contractual notice and redundancy terms.
Reforms – Shared Parental Leave
This came into force on 1 December 2014 and applies to eligible parents where a child is due to be born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015. This enables eligible employees to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed. This means mothers, fathers, partners and adopters can share some of the leave with their partner, return to work for some of the time and resume leave at a later date.
*Crystal Bolton is an employment lawyer for Michael Lewin Solicitors in Leeds and has just joined the Workingmums.co.uk panel of experts so if you have any questions for Crystal regarding employment law send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.