Recently, the onus has been on shared parental leave – the new way of taking leave when a baby is born or adopted. It should not be confused with “parental leave”, which, although has a very similar name, is quite different to shared parental leave and has been in place since 1999.
Employees are entitled to take time off work for the purposes of ‘caring for a child’. It can be taken at any point until the child’s 18th birthday, however, employees need one complete year of continuous service at the date that the parental leave would start.
‘Caring for a child’ means looking after the welfare of the child and that can include making arrangements for the good of the child. Caring for a child does not necessarily mean being with the child 24 hours a day. The leave might be taken simply to enable parents to spend more time with their children. The following are examples of the way leave might be used to:
Spend more time with the child in early years
Accompany the child during a stay in hospital
Investigate new schools
Settle the child into new childcare arrangements
Enable the family to spend more time together, for example, taking the child to stay with grandparents.
An employee has an entitlement of 18 weeks parental leave to take until their child is 18. The entitlement is per child so an employee with 2 children under the age of 18 will get 36 weeks parental leave. It can only be taken in blocks of one week – if an employee wanted to take one day’s parental leave, one week would be deducted from their overall entitlement. However, where the employee’s child is disabled, leave can be taken in blocks of one day, and one day will be taken from the overall entitlement. An employee will carry their entitlement with them throughout their working life i.e. they do not get 18 weeks per child per employer. An employer will need to trust and employee’s assertion regarding how much parental leave they have taken with previous employers, and ensure they are entitled to take whatever remains.
Employers can implement their own rules in relation to how much notice they want from an employee when applying to take parental leave, or how much parental leave they will allow to be taken each year. If there are no rules on this in an organisation, the default provisions will apply. This means that the employee must give 21 days’ notice to take parental leave, and only 4 weeks can be taken per calendar year.
There is no entitlement to be paid during parental leave. If the employee uses the leave for some other purpose, he or she will be acting dishonestly and you can deal with the situation according to the usual disciplinary procedures of the business.
For further clarification please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.