Family Friendly Rights

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The Children and Families Bill 2013 introduces a number of family friendly rights.  These are:

  • an intention to introduce a system of shared parental leave and pay.  The idea is that parents will be able to share their entitlement to 52 weeks leave and 39 weeks of statutory pay upon the birth or adoption of a child.  Consultation is under way in respect of how the system will work in practice.  We can expect it to come into force in 2015.  Find out more here;
  • creation of rights for eligible employees to take unpaid time off work to attend up to two anti natal appointments (up to a maximum of six and a half hours per appointment).  This right would also apply to adopters to take time off to attend appointments to meet with the child they intend to adopt;
  • rights to request flexible working will be extended to all employees with 26 weeks service rather than just those who currently only qualify as parents or carers.  Employers will no longer be required to follow statutory procedures regarding flexible working requests.  Instead they will be required to consider requests in a reasonable manner.  A draft statutory code of practice is subject to consultation until 20 May 2013; and
  • a best practice guide is also likely to be published by ACAS before a proposed introduction date in 2014.

With regards to parental leave, regulations have already been introduced (in March) enabling employees to take a period of 18 (rather than 13) weeks of unpaid parental leave. Employees will be entitled to this leave up to a maximum of four weeks per year (The Parental Leave (EU Directive) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/283, which implement the revised EU Directive on Parental Leave (No.2010/18)).

Practical implications

It’s difficult to gauge how the proposals for shared parental leave will impact upon us.  We generally get very few questions and see little in the way of dispute in this area.  It is thought, however that unless, for example, the mother is earning more than the father we would not anticipate wide spread usage of this scheme.

With regard to the changes in flexible working requests, employers can expect more flexible working requests, with some requests coming from unexpected sources. There will then be the subsequent headaches around how to deal with the requests (without falling foul of other legal considerations such as discriminatory treatment). This will be particularly challenging if the draft Code sticks with the presumption that the request should be granted unless there is a business reason for refusing.

For further information, help or advice please contact our Employment Team on 0191 211 7777 or email [email protected].