Parental leave has been extendedEmployers and HR managers in the UK should not be surprised at this week’s extension of parental leave benefits, it has been claimed.

The European Council agreed this week to extend the current legislation allowing mums and dads to take up to three months off work to four months per parent.

Commenting on the news, Simon Rice-Birchall, partner at international law firm Eversheds, said the news comes as "no surprise" as the extended benefits were negotiated between employee groups and employers earlier in the year.

This means the current UK law guaranteeing mums and dads 13 weeks’ parental leave will have to be extended by 2012.

"But, in practice, giving parents the right to an extra month’s leave is unlikely to have a big impact on UK employers. Under current law there is no obligation to pay workers who are on parental leave and nothing in this new proposal changes that," Mr Rice-Birchall pointed out.

In light of this, he predicted that "relatively few" workers were likely to take advantage of the benefits.

Pregnant women were recently advised by parenting expert Catherine Hanly to keep in touch with their HR department and employer in order to ease their return to work once they have had their baby.