Government Bill includes reforms to shared parental leave and flexible working system

The Government has today published the Children and Families Bill, which includes reforms to the way in which parents can share maternity leave as well as the extension of the right to request flexible working.

Under the new system of shared parental leave:

  • employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave as a “day one” right;
  • mothers can choose to end their maternity leave after the initial two-week recovery period, and then parents can decide how they want to share the remaining leave;
  • fathers will gain a new right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments;
  • there will be new statutory payment for parents on shared parental leave with the same qualifying requirements that currently apply to statutory maternity and paternity pay; and
  • those who have adopted a child will be entitled to the same pay and leave as birth parents.

The Bill also extends the right to request flexible working to all employees and removes the current statutory procedure for considering requests. Instead, employers will have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner.

Business minister Jo Swinson said: “Employers will soon get used to more men taking time off after their child is born and more mothers returning to work earlier, shattering the perception that it is mainly a woman’s role to stay at home and look after the child. These measures will really help our aim of ensuring more businesses are making the best use of women’s talents throughout the organisation, from the boardroom to the shop floor.

“The new system is good for business as it will create a more motivated and flexible, talented workforce. Employers will be able to attract and retain women and prevent them from dropping out of the world of work once they start a family. Flexible working will also widen the pool of talent in the labour market, helping to drive growth.”

The news was welcomed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), but Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, pointed out that the new system must be easily administered: “Shared parental leave can be a win-win for employers and employees, supporting working families while helping businesses retain talent. For the benefits to be felt it must be simple to administer, especially for smaller firms.

“The extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees reflects common practice in many workplaces. But businesses have to balance the needs of all their employees as well as customers, so they must retain the right to say no.”

Work-life organisation Working Families also welcomed the publication of the Bill. Chief executive Sarah Jackson said: “All our research and day-to-day work with our employer members shows that flexible working brings performance gains. Employers who allow flexible working benefit from better retention rates, reduced absenteeism and loyal and motivated employees.

“We welcome the greater flexibility for parents to share the leave and pay in the first year of their baby’s life. Over time these changes will shift attitudes in the workplace, allow fathers more time to spend with their children and start to tackle the maternity discrimination that so blights our helpline callers.”

For more information on the Children and Families Bill visit XpertHR.

XpertHR also has a policy on flexible working as well as guidance on maternity and paternity leave and maternity pay and maternity allowance.

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