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Radical shake-up for parental leave

The UK government’s new plans for a radical shake-up of the parental leave system will have a direct impact on many employers, including households which employ just one member of domestic staff.

Until now, if your female employee becomes pregnant, she is obviously entitled to maternity leave, which stands at 52 weeks.  The husband or partner is currently entitled to two weeks of paternity leave.

Under the new proposals, which if implemented will come into effect in 2015,  both parents will be able to share the one year parental leave period, dividing time between them or even taking time off together.  This could have a major impact on the availability of your staff.

During the 52 weeks of maternity leave, a mother will be able to trigger the right to additional parental leave at any point so that whatever time is left to run on her original year can be:

  1. taken off by her partner instead; or
  2. divided between the two of them, with each taking short periods in turns; or
  3. taken together, i.e. if the couple take six weeks off together, this will use 12 weeks of the leave; or
  4. utilised in separate blocks, i.e. the mother could return to work for two months then take a further period of time as parental leave.

Other changes include an increase in unpaid parental leave from 13 to 18 weeks from March 2013, and by 2015 the right for men to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments, as well as the child’s age limit on parental leave to increase from 5 years to 18 years.

In respect of the amount of notice which staff will require to give employers, the government hopes to keep the rules essentially as they are now.

A woman must notify her employer no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of birth (or, if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as is reasonably practicable) that she is pregnant and must provide the expected week of birth and when she intends her Ordinary Maternity Leave to start.

The partner must also notify their employer no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of birth (or, if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as is reasonably practicable) that their partner is pregnant (and that they are an eligible partner) and must provide the expected week of birth and when they intend for their Ordinary Paternity Leave to start.

A consultation considering the detail of how the new system of flexible parenting leave will work will be launched in early 2013.  Further to which the government will introduce legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows in order to implement the reforms by 2015.

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