Confusion around parental leave entitlement?

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Mixed messages are circulating from HR & legal experts over the planned increase in parental leave entitlement from 13 to 18 weeks. We clarify the situation and explain the likely timetable for this change

Background

Currently, every parent with at least one year’s service is entitled to take unpaid parental leave of up to 13 weeks for each of their children.

The leave can be taken in chunks of up to 4 weeks per year up to the child’s fifth birthday (unless you have an alternative arrangement in place).

A revised European Parental Leave Directive was agreed in March 2010, and will need to be implemented in the UK. This increased the minimum period of parental leave from 3 to 4 months. The UK Government has therefore committed to increasing parental leave in the UK from 13 to 18 weeks.

When is this change happening?

Some commentators have predicted that the increase in parental leave from 13 to 18 weeks will take place in April 2012. This is presumably because the official deadline for implementing the revised Directive is 8 March 2012.

However, our Head of Employment Policy, Tim Thomas, confirms that this is unlikely to be the case. Instead, according to EEF sources, the Government plans to postpone implementation of the increase and incorporate it into the proposed new system of maternity and paternity leave.

The current proposals (which the Government consulted about last year) include re-designing the maternity/ paternity leave system to:

  • shorten maternity leave to 18 weeks,
  • allow 34 weeks flexible parental leave to be taken by the mother or the father or shared between them
  • increase the additional EU unpaid parental leave entitlement from 13 to 18 weeks and extend the deadline for taking unpaid parental leave to when the child reaches 8,12, 16 or 18 (the Government has not yet decided on the age).

We expect to see the Government’s final proposals very shortly. They will then be incorporated in an Employment Bill planned for May this year. They will not come into effect until the Bill is enacted and comes into force – possibly in April 2015.

Don’t jump the gun

So employers should not be rushing to change their parental leave policies just yet. We will keep member companies informed about the Government’s proposals, as and when they are published. In the meantime, members can read about the changes which are currently planned for April 2012

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