Government takes action on parental leave

The government has announced a new shared system of parental leave, which it believes will help families balance their work and home commitments.

Employed mothers currently receive up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, 39 of them paid. Under the new system, which is expected to come into force from 2015, they will still be entitled to the same leave but, after an initial two-week recovery period, this can be shared with the other parent.

Parents can either take this leave at the same time or can alternate with each other, and will receive a new statutory payment.

Employers will be entitled to eight weeks notice before the flexible parent leave is taken. While this will be provided through a self-certified notice, the exact details of how the system will work are yet to be decided, and will be consulted on next year.

While fathers will still receive two weeks statutory leave, they will also be entitled to take unpaid time off to attend two antenatal appointments.

According to employment minister, Jo Swinson, these changes will remove the gender bias created by the current parental leave provisions. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg added that they would also create more flexible workplaces.

“Reform is long overdue and the changes we are making will shatter the perception that women have to be the primary care-givers. In the future, both mothers and fathers will be able to take control of how they balance those precious first months with their child and their careers. This is good news not only for parents and parents-to-be, but employers too who will benefit from a much more flexible and motivated workforce.”

In addition, all employees will be entitled to request flexible working, although employers will be able to refuse these requests on business grounds after giving them due consideration.

At Palmers Solicitors, we can advise on all areas of employment law, including parental leave and requests for flexible working. For more information and advice, please contact Lara Murray or Karl Barnes at Basildon or Charlotte Woolven-Brown at South Woodham Ferrers.