16th November 2012

Flexible Parenting – More Reforms

On 6 April 2010 the government introduced the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010 with the intention of providing greater flexibility in parental leave.  These Regulations had the intention of allowing fathers to be more involved in parenting during the first year of a child’s life.

On 13 November 2012, the government announced further proposed reforms to the current system of maternity and paternity leave.  Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg suggested that the proposed “radical reforms” to the current “antiquated” system of parenting leave will become law next year and will likely take effect in 2015.

Under the proposals, mothers in employment would still be able to take the current maximum of 12 months’ maternity leave if they want.  However the proposals provide for allowing parents to share the period of leave in a more flexible manner with the possibility of mixing and matching leave.  Mothers will have to take a minimum of two weeks’ leave after childbirth for recovery purposes.  Aside from that parents could pick and choose how they take leave so long as the combined amount of leave did not exceed 12 months.  It would also be possible for mothers and fathers to take time off together.  For example, they could both take off the first 6 months after childbirth which would allow for the total allowance of 12 months.  No more than 9 months of the total leave period will be guaranteed with pay as is currently the case.

Mr Clegg suggested that the changes will “shatter the perception that women have to be the primary care-givers”.  It is also hoped that the proposed changes will benefit employers in providing a “more flexible and motivated workforce”.

The government intend to consult next year on how the new system will be administered.  The proposals also provide for fathers to be permitted periods of unpaid leave for the purposes of antenatal appointments and the government intends to revisit the statutory period of paternity leave (currently two weeks) in 2018.

Finally, the proposals also provide for a shake-up of flexible working arrangements by extending the right to request flexible working to all employees (as opposed to just parents and carers).  The current statutory procedure for considering flexible working requests will be removed with the effect that employers will have to consider all requests in a reasonable manner.  The changes to flexible working are intended to be implemented in 2014.

Jack Boyle
Business – Employment Law   

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