The government published the final draft Parental Leave Regulations yesterday (the previous Regulations, which were made available through this list, being the consultation draft).
The DTI press release is copied below:
4 November 1999
BYERS LAYS REGULATIONS IN PARLIAMENT GIVING PARENTS TIME OFF TO CARE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN
Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, today announced the details of the Government's parental leave rights which will become law on 15th December 1999. As a result of consultation, the new proposals include a specific scheme for the parents of disabled children and introduces greater flexibility to assist small businesses.
Laying the regulations in Parliament, Stephen Byers, announced that the parents of disabled children born after the 15th December will be able to use their entitlement of thirteen weeks unpaid leave up until the child's 18th birthday.
The decision to extend rights for the parents of disabled children follows the department's consultation on parental leave. On average parents with disabled children have to attend more medical appointments a year. A number of organisations including the TUC and Equal Opportunities Commission suggested amendments to the draft proposals to help parents cope with these extra demands.
The regulations confirm that parents will for the first time have the right to take up to 13 weeks unpaid leave over the first five years of a child's life for children born after 15th December. Parents adopting a child will be entitled to the same leave in the five years after adoption.
In a move aimed at helping small businesses, the amount of parental leave that can be taken in any one year will be limited to four weeks in the Government's fallback scheme. But small businesses will be encouraged to enter into their own agreements with employees reflecting the needs of their business rather than relying on the fallback scheme.
Stephen Byers said:
"I have listened very carefully to the views of employees and employers in our consultation and I am pleased to announce that we have changed our proposals to help the parents of disabled children cope with the extra demands they face. In addition we have taken steps to meet many of the concerns raised by small businesses.
"These regulations are groundbreaking. Parents will for the first time be entitled to three months off work in the first five years of a child's life as well as to time off when there is a sudden emergency at home, or school.
"The key to the success of our proposals is flexibility. It is now for employers and employees to agree the arrangements locally for how the 13 weeks leave should be taken. We do not want to dictate this and our consultation demonstrated that different arrangements will suit different businesses.
"The Government's fallback scheme is simply a fallback. Our task is to ensure that parents get these new rights but if a small business would prefer to allow employees to take leave in minimum blocks of a day rather than a week that is fine. Similarly if a business wants to allow employees to take 13 weeks all in one go they can do so."
Employers will not be required to keep statutory records of parental leave taken as part of the Government's commitment to minimising red tape. Stephen Byers also announced that the Government will set up a monitoring group to monitor take-up of parental leave and report back to him on its success.
The fallback scheme outlined in the regulations today provides for employees to take parental leave:
in blocks of one week up to a maximum of four weeks leave in a year (for each child);
in one day, or multiples of a day if the leave is to care for a disabled child, again to a maximum of four weeks a year;
after giving 21 days notice;
subject to postponement by an employer for up to six months but leave cannot be postponed when an employee gives notice to take it immediately after the time the child is born, or placed with a family for adoption.
Notes for Editors:
1. Details of the parental leave regulations are contained in the attached Interim Guidance Note which is also available on the DTI website ( http://www.dti.gov.uk/ir/erbill.htm ) or through DTI General Enquiries, tel: 0171 215 5000.
2. The Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 will be published by the Stationery Office ( http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/stat.htm#1999 ), telephone 0345 02
3. The regulations will also increase ordinary maternity leave from
14 to 18 weeks and reduce the qualifying period for additional maternity leave from two years to one. This means that mothers who qualify will be able to extend their maternity leave until 29 weeks after the birth. They simplify the procedures for women giving notice of taking maternity leave and the arrangements for their return to work, and also make it clear that contracts of employment continue during additional maternity leave. The maternity leave changes will apply to women whose expected week of childbirth falls on or after 30 April 2000.
4. Consultation on the parental and maternity leave proposals closed on 4 October (DTI Press Release P/99/679 4 August). 310 responses were received. In total 194 responses came from employers and their representatives. 56 responses were received from employees and employees' organisations.
5. For the purposes of parental leave, a disabled child is a child for whom disability living allowance is awarded.
Interim Guidance Note
The new right to parental leave will apply to employees who have completed one year's service with their employer. It will allow parents with children born or adopted after 15 December 1999 to take parental leave to care for that child. The right will apply to mothers and fathers and to a person who has obtained formal parental responsibility for a child under the Children Act or its Scottish equivalent. Parents will be able to start taking parental leave when the child is born or placed for adoption or as soon as they have completed one year's service with their employer, whichever is later.
Key elements of parental leave which will apply in every case
13 weeks' parental leave for each child;
the employee's rights to take the leave last until the child's fifth birthday or until five years have elapsed following placement in the case of adoption;
parents of disabled children will be able to use their leave over alonger period, up until the child's 18th birthday;
the employee will remain employed while on parental leave; some terms, such as contractual notice and redundancy terms will still apply;
at the end of parental leave an employee is guaranteed the right toreturn to the same job as before, or, if that is not practicable, a similar job which has the same or better status, terms and conditions as the old job; where the leave taken is for a period of 4 weeks or less, the employee will be entitled to go back to the same job.
Agreements between employers and employees
Wherever possible employers and employees should make their own agreements about how parental leave will work in a particular workplace. They may choose to do so through individual, workforce or collective agreements. In small firms especially, where employers and employees work closely together, the needs of each can be agreed on an individual basis.
Agreements can improve upon the key elements set out above but they cannot offer less. For example, employees must be able to take the equivalent of 13 weeks' leave from work whether the local scheme allows this to be in days, weeks, one long block or as reduced working hours or a mixture of all of these.
Agreements can also cover matters such as how much notice of parental leave must be given, arrangements for postponing the leave when the business cannot cope or could be harmed by the employee's absence, and how it should be taken. Where employers and employees have not
entered into an agreement about these matters, or until they have done so, the fallback scheme set out in the Regulations applies.
Collective or workforce agreements can set aside the fallback scheme and replace it with a different set of arrangements entirely.
Where different arrangements are agreed with individuals, it will always be open to the individual to exercise his or her rights under any part of the Regulations, including the fallback scheme, if these are better in any particular respect.
The fallback scheme
The fallback scheme in the Regulations provides for employees to take parental leave in blocks or multiples of one week after giving 21 days notice up to a maximum of four weeks leave in a year subject to postponement by employer for up to 6 months where business cannot cope but leave cannot be postponed when the employee gives notice to take it immediately after the time the child is born or is placed with the family for adoption Parents of disabled children will have the flexibility to take leave a day at a time or longer if they wish. A disabled child is a child
for whom disability living allowance is awarded.
Employers are not required to keep statutory records of parental leave taken, although many will want to do so for their own purposes.When an employee changes jobs, employers will be free to make enquiries of a previous employer or seek a declaration from the employee about how much parental leave he or she has taken.
Employees will have the right to go to an employment tribunal if the employer prevents or attempts to prevent them from taking parental leave. An employee who takes parental leave will also be protected from victimisation, including dismissal, for taking it.
The Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations, which are subject to parliamentary approval, provide for a new right to parental leave which will come into force on 15 December 1999.
Department of Trade and Industry 1 Victoria Street London SW1H 0ET