With all the excitement over the introduction of shared parental leave, many employers missed a change to the parental leave regime that came into force in April. Parental leave has been available to certain employees for many years now but uptake has been relatively low. This may be as the leave is unpaid.
In April the law was changed so that employees can take unpaid leave to care for a child up to the age of 18 (it was previously only available to employees with children under five or under 18 if the child was disabled).
In a nutshell, parental leave is available to employees with one year's service who are either the birth or adoptive parents of a child or have parental responsibility for a child. The leave should be taken to care for the child. An eligible employee can take up to 18 weeks' leave per child. A maximum of four weeks' leave can be taken in each year and any leave must be taken in blocks of a week. Employers can postpone a request for leave by up to six months where the operation of the business would be unduly disrupted if the employee took the leave when requested.
Employers should already have a parental leave policy in place, but will need to update it and may find that it attracts more interest following the change to the law. Parents wanting to cover the long school summer holidays or help their teenagers get through exam periods are the most likely candidates to request leave.