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The Government has fleshed out the details of how it proposes to fulfill its commitment to make it easier for both parents to go out to work and still be fully involved in the lives of their children. It has published the Children and Families Bill, to implement the proposals.

Children and Families Bill

The Bill includes provision for a system of shared parental leave, and also extends the right to request flexible working to all employees.

The Government had sought views on its proposals as part of its Modern Workplaces consultation, which ran from May to August 2011.

It published its response to the consultation in November 2012, and announced its intention to legislate on the matter in 2013 - with the aim of introducing the changes to flexible working in 2014 and those for shared parental leave in 2015.

Shared parental leave

The reforms relating to shared parental leave are designed to give parents greater flexibility about how they ‘mix and match’ the care of their child.

Under the new provisions:

  • 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; working parents can then 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 a new statutory payment for parents on shared parental leave with the same qualifying requirements that currently apply to statutory maternity and paternity pay.
  • Those who have adopted a child will be entitled to the same pay and leave as birth parents.

Flexible working

Flexible working has been criticised in the past because the right to request it was only available to parents and carers. The Government intends to remove this restriction by extending the right to request flexible working to all employees, which will allow them to manage their work alongside other commitments they might have.

The Government will also be removing the statutory procedure that employers currently have to follow when considering a flexible working request. Under the Bill, employers will be required to consider all requests in a reasonable manner.

Promoting equality

Business Minister Jo Swinson believes that the provisions of the Bill will be a positive move for equality in the workplace, as they will make it easier for working mothers to stay in the workforce, rather than having to drop out once they start a family.

She also claims that it will be good for business, as it will create a more motivated, flexible and talented workforce.

Overcoming cultural barriers

Ms Swinson acknowledges that there may be some cultural barriers to be overcome as employers and employees adjust to these changes, but believes that the workplace will soon adapt.

“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,” she explained. “These measures will really help our aim of ensuring more businesses are making best use of women’s talents throughout the organisation, from the boardroom to the shop floor.”

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

 

Stress had a noticeable impact on businesses in 2012, according to more than two fifths (42%) of senior managers from small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) surveyed for global insurer Zurich's latest quarterly SME Risk Index.

According to a fifth (19%) of SMEs surveyed, workforce absence levels have risen over the past two years, with 12% reporting more short-term stress-related absences of less than four weeks in the last year.

And when the results for small (10-49 employees) and medium-sized (50-249 employees) enterprises are looked at separately, absence levels for the past two years are up by 27% for small companies and 30% for medium ones,  suggesting that the impact of stress on absence could be an increasing worry as businesses become larger and more established.

A quarter (25%) of SMEs surveyed also reported lower morale amongst their employees due to workforce stress in 2012, with this again rising to 27% & 39% amongst small and medium businesses respectively.

However there is some optimism about the year ahead, with the prospect of a stronger economic environment (33%) and expansion of business in the UK (29%) being cited as the two biggest opportunities for 2013.

The Government has announced a series of reforms to provide a new system of flexible parental leave.

A new report from national charity Family Lives finds that flexible working is still extremely difficult to obtain across a range of workplaces.

The Government has published a consultation setting out plans for a new employment status called an ‘employee owner’. The move follows the Chancellor’s announcement on 8th October and will provide companies with a new option to increase the flexibility of how they hire people and help their companies grow.

A recent poll by YouGov has found that 63% of British people don't support the Government's proposal for owner-employee schemes.

The CBI has set out its analysis of the impact of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWRs) a year after they came into force, and its priorities for the upcoming Government review of the regulations.

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has warned that lack of investment in management skills means many employers are missing out on the business benefits of flexible working.

A new global survey has revealed that a majority of hourly workers around the world believe their employer has violated laws or rules governing overtime in their region.

A post-Olympics survey of over 1,000 managers, published by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), explored the impact on organisations – from working practices to staff morale – during the Games. Almost half (48%) of managers said that the Olympics had resulted in higher morale in the office.

The European Commission has agreed to extend the negotiating period on reviewing the Working Time Directive to 31st December 2012, given that negotiations are making progress.

The latest Real Retirement Report from Aviva has found almost two-thirds of employers offer no tailored retirement support to their older workers.

Recent research has found that 27% of UK workers aged between 45 and 54 who work with other people think their employers put their colleagues who have children or families first. The finding comes from a survey of 1,175 working adults with colleagues by YouGov for Croner.

Workplace inequalities have increased significantly across Europe as a result of the global economic crisis, and will continue to do so as more and more countries introduce austerity measures and labour reforms, according to a new study published by the International Labour Office (ILO).

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that the Working Time Directive precludes national rules which make entitlement to paid annual leave conditional on a minimum period of 10 days’ actual work. That entitlement cannot be affected where the employee is on sick leave which has been duly granted, as a result of sickness or an accident at his place of work or elsewhere.

Seventy per cent of UK managers think that the old idea of '9 to 5' working is dying out in favour of more flexible working arrangements, according to a new survey commissioned by Vodafone. Among these managers, nine out of ten enable their staff to work flexibly to some extent, rather than expect them to stick rigidly to traditional working hours.

An independent review of sickness absence has reported back to Government with recommendations on how to reduce the impact of absence on employers, taxpayers and the economy.

Employees spend nearly 200 hours a year travelling to and from work - adding up to around five weeks extra work - according to a TUC analysis of official statistics.

New research from the University of Warwick suggests many women in the UK are being forced to go back to work full-time or abandon their careers after having a child because of a lack of part-time work, particularly those in senior or highly-paid roles.

The Family and Parenting Institute (FPI) has called upon the Prime Minister to support proposals to modernise working life in the name of hardworking families.

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