Work and parents

The
tide of family friendly policies continues. 
The Government has recently issued a Green Paper, Work & Parents
Competitiveness and Choice, with consultation proposals on "getting a
proper balance between home and work".

The
Government is keen to enhance the existing "family-friendly" rights.
Its stated aim is to improve choice for parents and enhance competitiveness for
business by keeping and maintaining women’s skills and knowledge in the
economy, maximising the contribution that working parents are able to make,
safeguarding the health and welfare of the mother and child before and after
birth, and improving the quality of family life.

Proposals

The
proposals on which the Government is seeking comments by 7 March 2001, include:


Extending unpaid maternity leave to up to a year


Sharing any extension to unpaid maternity leave between mother and father


Increasing the flat rate of maternity pay


Increasing the period of time for which maternity pay is available to 26 weeks


Giving working fathers the right to paternity leave, for example for two weeks,
paid at the same flat rate as maternity pay


Increasing parental leave for parents with disabled children


Including routine hospital appointments within the right to take time off for
dependants


The possibility of introducing paid parental leave, and


Ways to enable more people to work on a reduced hours basis, with perhaps a
right for both parents to work reduced hours when the mother’s maternity leave
ends.

Other
issues

The
Green Paper also considers the problems faced by businesses when a woman goes
on maternity leave and sets out a number of options to support businesses. The
Government is apparently committed to encouraging flexible business practices.
It is considering what incentives might be given to promote flexible working,
such as an Internet flexible working gateway, creating a kitemark code on
flexible working, giving awards and issuing grants to small businesses to adapt
to flexible working systems.

The
paper also contains a useful comparison of maternity and parental leave rights
in other countries and a review of current entitlements and case law.  There are also some useful flow charts
mapping for the existing family-friendly rights. It seems that by this time
next year, "family-friendly law" may have received yet another major
"boost".

The
Green Paper can be found at www.dti.gov.uk/er/review.htm

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