The Coalition government has announced two “family friendly” employment law proposals, following a commitment in the Coalition’s “programme for government” which stated:
We will extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, consulting with business on how best to do so” and “We will encourage shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy including the promotion of a system of flexible parental leave”.
An article by Ed Milliband in the Daily Mirror in early July said “let’s give every employee the right to flexible working” – so the first of these proposals seems to be non-controversial, at least at a political level.
The two immediate proposals are:
- The right to request flexible working arrangements. Since April 2003, parents and others (such as guardians) with responsibility for caring for children have had the legal right to ensure that requests they make for flexible working arrangements (such as part-time work or working from home) are taken seriously by their employers. The request must be to enable the employee to care for the child and an important condition is that the employee must have been employed in his job for at least 6 months to be eligible. In April 2007 the right was extended so that carers of certain people other than children could claim the right.
Originally the child concerned had to be aged under 6 (or 18 if disabled). In April 2009 the age 6 limit for children was raised to 17. On 30 September 2010, the government announced that the child age limit is to be raised further to 18 with effect from April 2011. Official figures suggest that just under 290,000 additional employees will be eligible to benefit.
- A consultation on implementing in full the parts of the Coalition “programme for government” noted above. Also on 30 September 2010, the government announced that a consultation will be launched “later this year” to look at how best to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees and also to consider “the design of a new system of flexible parental leave”.
The government has confirmed that in the meantime the Additional Paternity Leave regulations implemented in April 2010 will “remain in force as an interim measure for encouraging shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy”. These regulations have effect for parents of children due on or after 3 April 2011. New mothers will have the right to transfer the second half of their year-long maternity leave entitlement to the father. The father will have the right to up to six months extra paternity leave once the mother has returned to work and to the extent that he takes this extra leave during the mother’s maternity pay period, he will qualify to receive what is in effect the balance of her Statutory Maternity Pay entitlement.
This is an item from our October 2010 newsletter. If you are interested in subscribing to our monthly newsletter please click here.