The Children and Families Bill, which resulted from the Government Consultation on Modern Workplaces, has resulted in family friendly rights being a key area of development in Employment Law at present and over the coming years. Some significant changes which are expected to take place over the next twenty four months and which employers should be aware of are set out below:-
Shared parental leave - response to consultation published
In response to the Consultation on Modern Workplaces, the government announced in November 2012 that it intended to introduce a new system of statutory parental rights applicable to employees and agency workers. Under the scheme, parents will effectively be able to share the statutory maternity leave and pay currently available only to mothers. Further, they will be able to take the leave flexibly, in separate blocks, if this is agreed with their employer.
On 29 November 2013, the Government published its response to its consultation on how the new shared parental leave and pay system will be administered in practice. The key points are as follows:-
- A woman will need to give her employer at least eight weeks' notice of her intention to end maternity leave and pay and begin shared parental leave (SPL) and claim shared parental pay (SPP).
- The woman will be entitled to give the notice before the child's birth. This will enable her and her partner to begin SPL and claim SPP immediately after the compulsory two-week maternity leave period.
- Both parents will need to give their respective employers eight weeks' notice to begin SPL and if they wish to take several blocks of leave, they must give their employers eight weeks' notice in respect of each period of leave. The eight weeks' will include a two week discussion period between the employer and employee.
- Employees will be required to provide a non-binding indication of their expected pattern of leave when they notify their employer of their intention to take SPL.
Right to request flexible working extended
The Children and Families Bill will extend flexible working rights to all employees with 26 weeks' service, rather than just those employees who qualify as parents or carers. Employers will also no longer be required to follow the statutory procedure regarding flexible working requests, and must instead consider all requests reasonably.
ACAS has produced a draft code of practice on the extended right to request flexible working and launched a consultation on the draft code in February 2013. The draft code is deliberately concise and "principles-based" around what a reasonable process requires. It intends to publish a good practice guide with case studies at the same time as the final code of practice.
The new system is planned to take effect in spring 2014.
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