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Option of unpaid parental leave now available

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Today the new rules regulations allowing for unpaid parental leave come into force. Initially only parents of children aged over five on December 15, 1999, were entitled to 13 weeks off for each child. Now it will apply to parents of younger children too, following the TUC’s success in a legal challenge.

The TUC’s General Secretary John Monks said:
“We welcome these changes, made as a result of the TUC’s legal case against the Government’s arbitrary cut-off date for parental leave. These new regulations will give around two million working parents the chance to take the leave previously denied to them. But the TUC is still campaigning for the Government to introduce paid parental leave and to make it more flexible. Many parents are unable to take their leave because it would be unpaid, and cannot be taken in blocks of less than a week or by temporarily working less hours”.

In addition, parents with children who are disabled are now able to take a total of 18 weeks’ leave up until the child’s eighteenth birthday, and it can be in blocks of less than a week. Previously, parents of disabled children were only eligible for the same leave as other parents.


TUC summary of regulations, with examples
The regulations aim to ensure that parents adversely affected by the cut-off date will, as far as possible, not be disadvantaged.

They:
– Provide extra time for parents affected by the cut-off date to take their total entitlement of thirteen weeks’ parental leave. All parents of children born or placed for adoption from 15 December 1994 to 14 December 1999 will have until the end of March 2005 to take their parental leave.

– Allow for previous qualifying service to be taken into account. Parents are not generally entitled to parental leave until they have worked for an employer for at least one year. The new Regulations allow a period of continuous employment of one year or more with a previous employer from 15 December 1998 onwards to count as qualifying service for parental leave with a current employer.

Examples:
– A has a two year old son, born in April 1999. A had been continuously employed for five years with the same employer, until April 2001 when he changed jobs. A will now get the right to take parental leave from his current employment (or from a subsequent employment regardless of length of service if he changes jobs again). A will still only get 13 weeks’ parental leave in total, and must take it by 31 March 2005.

– B has a six year old daughter, born in January 1995. B has been employed by her current employer for ten years continuously. B will now get the right to take 13 weeks’ parental leave. This must be taken by 31 March 2005. If B changes employment, she will retain her rights to take any remaining parental leave without having to meet a qualifying service requirement with a new employer.

– C has an adoptive daughter aged ten, who was placed with C for adoption on 1 July 1998. C has just started a new job, but has not previously been in employment for more than a few months continuously. C will now get the right to take 13 weeks’ parental leave. This must be taken by 31 March 2005. C will only have the right to take her parental leave once she has worked for her employer for one year.

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