New parents in Jersey will be offered up to 52 weeks’ leave in new legislation that has been described as “trailblazing”.
The States Assembly – Jersey’s parliament – voted 38-6 in favour of the proposed legislation, which will be open to both parents in up to three blocks over two years.
Jersey employment rights
The island currently only offers 26 weeks of leave as statutory, half the time offered to new mothers in the UK. Jersey politicians rejected an amendment to offer six months rather than a year to both new parents.
The proposition to change the law on parental leave, made by social security minister Judy Martin, had previously faced some opposition in the States with concerns it would have a negative impact on employers.
New fathers will be able to receive six weeks of paid leave, increased from the previous entitlement (and current UK entitlement) of two weeks on full pay. Parents can take the shared leave at the same time should they wish.
The proposals also include a requirement that employers take reasonable steps to provide facilities for breastfeeding mothers, and allow women to request breastfeeding breaks at work.
Adoptive and surrogate parents will be able to take time off work for appointments, and where necessary, pregnant and breastfeeding women will be able to take paid leave on health and safety grounds.
However, John Le Baily, a member who voted against a review of the changes in two years’ time, said: “I have it on good authority that this breastfeeding thing is a current fad.”
The law should come into force between June and July 2020. The States also voted to approve a review of the policy after 24 months.
Announcing the proposed changes to the law, Martin said: “This extension of employment rights is progressive and inclusive.
“Our proposed changes to the law follow consultation with employers and employees, undertaken by the Employment Forum in 2017. We want to improve the situation for parents in the workplace, giving families more choice and flexibility to help meet their work and family responsibilities. The changes we are proposing will also encourage gender balance in childcare roles.
“The 2016 Jersey Lifestyle and Opinions Survey found that around two-thirds of men had not taken any parental leave at all and 92 percent of men said they would have liked to have taken more leave. We hope that by providing longer defined periods of leave for each parent, both parents will be able to take an equal part in parental responsibility and encourage a culture change in local workplaces.”