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Nick Clegg announces “radical reforms” for new flexible parental leave scheme

23rd November, 2012

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, this week announced the government’s proposals for a new flexible working scheme for employees. If these proposals are implemented, parents of newborns will be able to share up to a year’s leave; they will be able to take time off together or separately and all employees will have a statutory right to request flexible working. Expectant fathers will also be given a new right to claim unpaid leave in order to attend two antenatal appointments.

Since April 2011, new mothers have been able to take 52 weeks leave after the birth of their baby, and new fathers can take 2 weeks leave, with the father being able to take up to 6 months (of any unused maternity leave transferred following the mother’s return to work) leave once the child is more than 20 weeks old. Parents are able to share the 52 weeks, however this has to be taken in a single block.

Current flexible working provisions provide that only those:

  1. with children under 17;
  2. with a disabled child under the age of 18; or
  3. carers of adults

can request a flexible working pattern.

The new scheme would mean that all employees could request flexible working regardless of whether they have a child or are a carer. This will mean that grandparents can apply for flexible working to look after their grandchildren. The government has also indicated that it will remove the statutory flexible working request procedure which is currently in place. Employers will instead have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner.

In his speech on Tuesday following publication of the Modern Workplaces consultation, Mr Clegg said the current provisions were “outdated rules” and said that he hoped they were “yanking these rules into the 21st century”. He said that the government is looking at a system of “maximum flexibility” which will come into effect from 2015. A new mother will be able to trigger flexible leave at any point after the first 2 weeks’ statutory minimum recovery period so that any time which is left over can be taken by her partner instead. Mr Clegg said that this means parents will be able to either “chop up” time together or take time off together. Parents will therefore be able to choose how the leave is taken; whether this is in turns, in different blocks, or at the same time. Mr Clegg said that for these proposals to work, couples will need to be “open” with their employers and give them “proper notice”.

Under new proposals, the maximum amount of leave which can be taken will remain at 12 months with 9 of those months being on a guaranteed rate of pay. Paternity leave will remain at two weeks due to concerns over costs, but this will be reviewed in 2018.

Mr Clegg claims that these measures will give parents “more options” and professional women a “real choice” about how they balance their careers and family responsibilities, while respecting couples who want more “traditional arrangements”. He said that this will lead to greater equality across society and will enable women to continue with their career whilst they also maintain their child-rearing responsibilities. The government will consult next year on the details in relation to administrating the new system.

For further information or advice on current flexible working provisions and the provisions which are proposed, please contact Claire Brook by sending an e-mail to [email protected] or by telephone on 01244 405575.


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