The law relating to leave for parents was changed in 2015 and ‘shared parental leave (SPL)’ was introduced. The idea of SPL is to allow parents to share 50 of the 52 weeks maternity leave with one another.
Although the changes received little publicity, parental leave was enhanced with effect from 6 April 2015. Until then, this leave had to be taken before the child’s fifth birthday (or 18 if they were disabled) and different rules applied to adopted children. But from 6 April 2015 this right was extended to all children up to 18.
Unpaid parental leave is available to any employee who has been with the same employer for a year or more so that parents can take more time off to care for their child, in addition to their annual holiday entitlement. It can be taken for up to four weeks a year, in blocks of one week, to a maximum of 18 weeks for each child before they turn 18.
But 41% of parents are unaware of their right to take unpaid parental leave to care for their children. According to a recent survey, 75% of respondents had never taken unpaid parental leave, although more than a quarter of them spent up to £800 on holiday clubs alone this summer. There is no obligation on an employer to bring this right to the attention of their employees and it seems that most employees are unaware of their entitlement to use it.