Many changes to the rights of parents and carers are in the offing. For starters, from 8 March:
- The right to request flexible work is extended to employed agency workers returning from maternity/paternity leave;
- Unpaid parental leave goes up to 18 weeks for each child.
The Children and Families Bill 2013, which recently has its second reading in the Commons, implements proposals to:
- Allow parents to share maternity leave (after the first 2 weeks’ compulsory leave) as parental leave, which will be paid, subject to the same qualification rules as for maternity and paternity pay. BIS have launched a consultation on how the new right will be administered, looking at issues like whether the one year period will run from the beginning of maternity leave or the birth of the child, and how employees should give notice to end maternity leave and pay where they propose to share leave.
- Allow (i) partners of pregnant women, (ii) intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement, and (iii) second adoptive parents to have time off for antenatal appointments and adoption meetings for the first time. Leave will be unpaid, and limited to two appointments not exceeding six and a half hours each. Single adoptive parents, and one adopter in a joint adoption, will be entitled to more time off for appointments.
- Extend the right to request flexible working, and remove the current statutory prescribed rules to be followed to make or consider a request. Instead, employers will have to consider the request reasonably, give an answer within 3 months (or longer if the parties agree), and employees will be deemed to have withdrawn their request if they fail to turn up to 2 consecutive meetings without good reason. Acas have issued a very short draft code of practice on flexible work requests for consultation.