More time with the family

9th March 2001 at 00:00
A teacher has asked for parental leave. What are the terms of this and must I grant it?

ALL working mothers and fathers are now entitled to parental leave.

A change in the law in 1999 granted leave to parents, quite separate from paid maternity leave. Parental leave does not have to be paid, although other terms and conditions of employment apply.

The relevant Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 were made under the Employment Relations Act of the same year.

Under these, employees become entitled to parental leave after being employed by their current boss for one year. The arrangement may either be agreed between employer and employees, in which case it will be written in the contract, or it will be governed by the Government's fall-back scheme. The terms of the former must be a least as good as the latter.

Parents can take a total of 13 weeks for each child born after December 15, 1999, which means 13 weeks for each child in the event of multiple births. The right to leave expires on the child's fifth birthday, or five years after the adoption date.

Unless it is agreed otherwise, leave must be taken in multiples of one week (except for disabled children) and no more than four weeks may be taken in any year.

Where the requested leave is inconvenient for the employer, he or she does have the right to postpone it for a maximum of six months.

The Department of Trade and Industry has published a booklet, "Parental Leave: A Guide for Employers and Employees" (reference: URN991143) which can also be found on the web at

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