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latest news in employment law

New Parental Leave Rules

Published 10 May 2016

The recent celebration of Mother’s Day is a good reminder to Employers that they need to check that their parental leave policies are up to date and reflect new law changes.

The Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act has been amended this year to extend the eligibility for, and duration of, parental leave, and allow greater flexibility to Employees when returning to work. 

Under the new law:

  • Paid parental leave has increased from 16 to 18 weeks.
  • New Employees may now also be eligible for paid parental leave – provided they have worked for another employee for an average of 10 hours per week over 6 months before the due date. Partners who meet this criteria are also eligible to take unpaid leave, 1 week for 6 months previous employment and 2 weeks for 12 months previous employment.
  • Employees can now extend paid parental leave for up to 13 weeks to cover premature births.
  • Employees who are the primary caregiver, but not a biological parent, may still be eligible for paid parental leave e.g. if they are adopting a child under 6 years old, foster parent, grandparent.
  • 28 days after the birth, Employees can return to work for up to 40 hours without forfeiting any parental leave entitlements – these are known as ‘keeping in touch’ days.

 It is important that Employers continue ensure that they:

  • Acknowledge an Employee’s request for parental leave, and within 21 days inform the Employee of their parental leave entitlements.
  • Notify the Employee within 21 days of taking parental leave if their position will be kept open.
  • If their position is not kept open, give the Employee preference for any other job that becomes available within 26 weeks of their paid or unpaid leave ending.
  • Continue to accrue the Employee’s leave entitlements throughout their paid and unpaid leave - on the Employee’s return, leave is calculated at their average weekly earnings for 12 months immediately before the end of their last pay period.