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 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.
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.