Currently, any employee who has completed one year of continuous employment and who ‘has, or expects to have responsibility, for a child’ is entitled to take up to four weeks’ unpaid parental leave per year while their child is under age five (or under 18 if the child is disabled), subject to an overall maximum of 13 weeks’ leave in respect of each child.
Under the revised Parental Leave Directive 2010/18/EU, male and female workers are each entitled to at least 18 weeks’ parental leave until the child reaches a given age up to eight years, to be determined by each Member State. To encourage a more equal take-up of leave by both parents, at least one of the four months is to be provided on a non-transferable basis. The Directive also gives parents returning from parental leave the right to request, for a set period of time, changes to their working hours and/or patterns of work and employers will have to respond to such requests taking into consideration both their own and their employees’ needs.
Although the date for implementing the Directive into domestic law was 8 March 2012, Member States for whom this presented ‘particular difficulties’ were granted a maximum additional period of one year to comply. The Government has decided to take advantage of this grace period on account of the ongoing development of its Modern Workplaces proposals. This programme includes measures to introduce a more flexible parental leave system to encourage shared parenting. These plans are not due to come into force until 2015, however, so the revised entitlement to unpaid parental leave under the Directive will nevertheless have to be introduced in 2013, two years ahead of the rest of the planned modernisation programme.