Parents will be entitled to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave per child from 8 March 2013, an increase from the current 13 weeks.
Both men and women are entitled to parental leave, relating to dependents under the age of five. For each child who receives disability allowance, the allocation of unpaid parental leave will increase to 18 weeks up until their 18th birthday.
In the case of multiple children, the employee has the right to take unpaid parental leave in respect of each child, but will only be eligible to unpaid leave for four weeks of the year.
Unpaid parental leave can include schooling problems, adjustment in childcare arrangements, the need to spend more time with their children or attending medical appointments. During this time, employee rights will be protected, such as holiday entitlement or notice of termination.
Alexandra Mizzi, associate at HowardKennedyFsi, said: “These changes may not have a huge impact in themselves – take-up of parental leave is generally pretty low as it’s unpaid and, unlike dependant’s leave, not designed for dealing with urgent childcare issues.
“However, it’s the first of several planned changes that will make parental workplace rights more flexible and gender-neutral. Businesses need to start thinking about these issues now, rather than face a huge culture shift in a couple of years.”
Jeya Thiruchelvam, employment law editor for XpertHR, explains that unpaid parental leave should not be confused with the Government’s newly proposed shared parental leave: “The right to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave is different to, and distinct from, the entirely new system of ‘shared parental leave’ that is due to come into force in 2015. The purpose of the new system of shared parental leave is to allow parents to share caring responsibilities where they want to.”
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