Under the statutory scheme for unpaid parental leave, eligible parents are entitled to a maximum of 18 weeks’ unpaid leave in respect of each individual child for the purpose of caring for that child.
Currently, parents may take unpaid parental leave at any time before the child’s 5th birthday. However, from 5 April 2015, parents will be entitled to take this leave at any time before a child’s 18th birthday.
It only applies to employees who have been continuously employed for a period of one year. Parents may not take more than 4 weeks’ parental leave in each year in relation to each child and, unless leave is taken in respect of a disabled child (where more flexibility will be permitted), leave must be taken in blocks of a whole week or a whole number of weeks.
Employees are required to give their employer at least 21 days’ notice of their intention to take parental leave, and the notice must set out the dates on which the period of leave is to begin or end. Except where an employee wishes to take parental leave immediately on the birth of a child, or the placement of a child for adoption, an employer is entitled to postpone the period of leave for up to 6 months where it considers that the operation of its business would be unduly disrupted (for example, where the work is of a seasonal nature, where a replacement cannot be found within the notice period or where a significant proportion of the workforce applies for parental leave at the time time).
The right to parental leave exists in addition to statutory maternity, paternity and adoption leave, as well as the new right to opt into Shared Parental Leave (which will also be introduced on 5 April 2015).
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