Entitlements available to working parents to take parental leave will increase in line with the requirements of European Directive 2010/18/EU.
Parental Leave offers qualifying parents of young or disabled children the right to take unpaid time off work to look after a child or make arrangements for the child’s welfare.
Qualifying parents will now be able to take up to 18 weeks’ parental leave, an increase on the 13 weeks available to most parents at present.
Employed agency workers will also, for the first time, benefit from the statutory right to request flexible working when they return from parental leave. That right empowers most parents and carers who are employees to request a contract variation (e.g. part-time work, job-sharing, flexi-time etc) to help balance their home and working lives. Employers must give such requests serious consideration but can turn them down if there are sound business grounds for doing so.
Statutory Rules made by the Department for Employment and Learning will bring both of these changes, which are required by the Directive, into effect on 8 March 2013.
A spokesperson for the Department said: “EU Directive 2010/18/EU stipulates that all Member States of the European Union must provide parental leave for a period of at least four months and sets guidelines for considering the age of children to whom the right should apply. Employment law in Northern Ireland already conforms to other aspects of the Directive; however these changes will ensure that parental leave and flexible working systems are fully compliant with its requirements.”