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15th November 2012

Flexible Parental Leave & Other Rights - New Plans Unveiled

In his speech "Greater Equality for a Stronger Economy", Nick Clegg has announced a range of new family friendly rights with the aim of giving parents "more options; more choice".

From 2015, a new system of flexible parental leave will be introduced to allow parents to share leave after the birth of their child more evenly if they wish to do so.

Under the new rules, a mother will be able to trigger flexible leave at any point, if and when she is ready. Only mothers will be able to take the first two weeks following childbirth but, after that, the remaining balance of 50 weeks of her maternity leave can be divided between the mother and father who can either take it in turns, or take time off together, to care for their child. The only rules are that no more than 12 months' leave can be taken in total and no more than 9 months' guaranteed pay. Both parents will, of course, be required to give "proper notice" to their employers.

In relation to paternity leave, plans to extend paternity leave from the current entitlement of two weeks' paid leave up to six weeks' paid leave have been abandoned due to concerns over the additional burden on businesses in the current climate. Paternity leave entitlements will, however, be revisited in 2018 when the new flexible parental leave rights will be reviewed.

It is not all bad news for fathers as a new legal right will be introduced which enables fathers to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments. This will allow fathers to be involved from the earliest stages of pregnancy.

Not only will parents who adopt be eligible for the new flexible parental leave rights but they will also be eligible for the new rights from day one of their employment and will be paid for the first 6 weeks of such leave at 90% of full pay. This corrects some disparities in the law which currently provides that couples who adopt are only able to take the equivalent of maternity and paternity leave once they have accrued 6 month' service and that pay during the leave period is capped at the statutory rate.

Finally, it has been confirmed that the right to request to work flexibly will be extended to all employees. Currently this right is only available to parents of children under 17 (or to parents of a disabled child under 18) and some carers of adults. The extended right could mean that it is possible for other relatives, grandparents and even close family friends to request to change the way they work in order to assist with childcare.

The new system is aimed at providing "maximum flexibility" for new parents but we are yet to see the detail and therefore what impact the new proposals may have on businesses.

For more information please contact Lynne Adams on 01604 463308 or lynneadams@hewitsons.com.

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