New parental leave rules

From 15 December 1999 employees who have been in post for one year will have a right to take parental leave. Whilst the regulations are still to be formally approved by Parliament the main points are as follows.

  • The rules apply where a child is born or adopted after 15 December 1999.
  • The rules apply to all mothers, married fathers, unmarried fathers registered on a child’s birth certificate, adoptive parents and anyone else who has acquired formal parental responsibility for a child.
  • A total of 13 weeks unpaid leave can be taken before the child’s 5th birthday or until 5 years have elapsed following adoption.  Parents of a disabled child can use their leave up until the child’s 18th birthday
  • If leave is taken for a block period of 4 weeks or less the employee is entitled to return to the same job.  If the leave is taken for more than 4 weeks the employee is entitled to return to the same job or if that is not practical to a similar job with the same or better status.

Entitlement to parental leave is in addition to any right to maternity leave.

The legislation will permit employers and employees to enter into collective or workplace agreements regulating the manner in which the entitlement is taken.  If there is no agreement a default scheme will apply.

If contracts of employment specify how the entitlements are to be taken but there is no workplace agreement, individual employees will be able to opt for the default scheme instead of the contractual terms.

The default scheme includes the following main rules:

  • Leave to be taken in multiples of one week.
  • 21 days notice to be given by the employee.
  • No more than 4 weeks leave in any year.
  • Leave may be postponed by the employer for up to 6 months where the business cannot cope.
  • Leave cannot be postponed when the employee gives notice to take it immediately after the time the child was born or placed with the family for adoption.

There are many additional details in the regulations which need to be considered before any workplace agreement is reached or an individual situation arises.

Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.