Flexible Parental Leave and Flexible Working

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18 May 2011

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has issued a consultation document entitled "Consultation on Modern Workplaces", which proposes to introduce a new system of flexible parental leave and to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.  The consultation will run for 12 weeks until 8 August 2011.

Flexible parental leave

It is proposed that a new system of flexible parental leave, planned to be introduced in April 2015, will replace the existing system of maternity, paternity and parental leave.

In summary, the proposals are as follows:

  • mothers would be entitled to 18 weeks' maternity leave, to be taken in one continuous block around the time of birth, and the current statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance arrangements would be retained during this period
  • fathers would be entitled to two weeks' paternity leave and pay around the time of their child's birth, in the same way as under the existing arrangements
  • parents would be entitled to four weeks' parental leave and pay (exclusive to each parent) to be taken in the first year
  • 30 weeks of additional parental leave would be available to either parent, to divide between them as they choose, of which 17 weeks would be paid and 13 weeks unpaid
  • paid leave would be at the standard rate (currently £128.73 per week) with the exception of the first six weeks of maternity leave, which would be at 90% of the employee's salary
  • in addition to the flexible parental leave available in the first year of the child's life, employed parents would have the right to 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave per parent per child.  This is an increase from the 13 weeks' unpaid leave that can currently be taken before the child's fifth birthday.  The qualifying criteria for this period of parental leave and age of the child for which unpaid parental leave is available is covered by the consultation.

Flexible working

In addition, the Government proposes to extend the right to flexible working to all employees who have been employed for 26 consecutive weeks; not just, as is currently the case, those with children under 17 (or disabled children under 18).

It is also proposed that the current statutory process for considering requests would be replaced with a duty to consider requests reasonably, alongside a new code of practice, and that employers would be allowed to take into account employees' individual circumstances when considering conflicting requests.  There are no plans to alter the current eight business reasons under which an employer may refuse a request.

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