There are a number of changes to family friendly rights coming up in 2014 and 2015. These are summarised for you below.
Shared parental leave
Draft Regulations have recently been issued for the shared parental leave arrangements that are due to come into force in April 2015. The intention is that shared parental leave arrangements will be available where a baby’s due date is on or after 5 April 2015 or where matching for adoption is after that date.
The Government is now consulting on the draft Regulations and this ends on 18 March 2014.
Shared parental leave arrangements mean that up to 50 weeks’ leave (37 weeks of which is potentially paid) will be available to be shared between partners. The rules apply equally to heterosexual and homosexual couples (as do the current maternity and paternity arrangements).
The first 2 weeks after the birth of a baby will still remain as a compulsory maternity leave period for the mother. The 2 week statutory paternity leave period will also still be available.
Interestingly, the draft Regulations include the ability for the employees to be able to request to take the leave in ‘discontinuous’ periods. This is something we have found employers are concerned about, as it can make cover arrangements very difficult. The draft Regulations state that such arrangements will only be possible where the employer agrees. If the employer refuses, the employee will have to take their share of the parental leave in one block.
It will also be possible for couples to choose to take their leave at the same time.
Although the new arrangements are being called “shared parental leave” we do of course already have statutory unpaid parental leave – the arrangements for that will remain the same but it is unfortunate that the terminology will be duplicated.
The draft Regulations mirror the existing arrangements on things like preserving terms and conditions during the leave, the right to return, redundancy during leave and detriment/dismissal etc.
There are also provisions for up to 20 Keeping in Touch (KIT) days per employee. There has been some confusion as to whether this is in addition to the 10 KIT days already available during maternity leave, and apparently this is actually going to be the case.
From 30 June 2014 the Government is planning to introduce ‘flexible working for all’ – where any employee with at least 26 weeks’ service will have a right to reasonably request flexible working, and the employer will be required to deal with requests reasonably. There will be an ACAS Code of Practice on dealing with the requests, as well as an ACAS good practice guide (and the draft Code of Practice and guidance can be found here).
Time off to attend ante-natal appointments
Also included in the Children and Families Bill is the right for eligible employees to take unpaid time off to attend up to 2 ante-natal appointments of up to 6.5 hours each (in addition to the right for pregnant employees to take paid leave for ante-natal appointments). The equivalent will apply for adoption appointments. There is however no implementation date available for this at the moment.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).