Law changes bring more flexibility for working parents

Families are central to a number of recent employment law alterations and with each political party competing for attention in preparation for the General Election there are likely to be further changes on the horizon.

The right to request flexible working came into force late last year and legislation on maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay will be amended, allowing both partners to take leave at the same time from April 2015.

Follow our guide on the headline changes to the system and how each could support greater flexibility for working parents.

Flexible working

Every employee has the right to request flexible working hours providing they have 26 weeks continuous service.

Having access to flexible start and finish times can be of benefit to older employees approaching retirement, young workers looking for time to take on additional training and also parents with young families.

The legislation, aims to bring working practices bang up-to-date with the needs, and choices, of the modern family.
The employee must have a good reason for requesting the flexible working hours or the application can be refused if there is are valid business reasons for doing so (as described in the legislation). However, if you feel your employer has not handled the request in a reasonable manner you can seek legal guidance and appeal the decision.

Shared parental leave

From April 5, 2015 a new system of paid shared parental leave comes into force, which aims to give parents greater control over sharing the care of their child in the first 12 months after birth or adoption.

Around 285,000 working couples in the UK would be eligible to share leave under the new rules, and will be able to be off work at the same time, or take it in turns to stay at home and look after the child.

Under the new scheme, employed mothers will be able to convert up to 50 weeks of maternity leave, and 37 weeks statutory maternity pay, into shared leave and pay with their partner.

To qualify for Shared Parental Leave (SPL), you must share care of the child with either:

– your husband, wife, civil partner or joint adopter
– the child’s other parent
– your partner (if they live with you and the child)

You can start SPL while your partner is still on maternity or adoption leave as long as they’ve given binding notice to end it.
A mother can’t return to work before the end of the compulsory two weeks of maternity leave following the birth (four if she works in a factory).

New right to take time off for antenatal and adoption appointments

Expectant partners are entitled to attend up to two unpaid ante-natal appointments with their pregnant partner. This is a major step in the government’s measures to encourage involvement of fathers or partners with their children from the earliest possible stages.
From April 5, 2015, this will be extended to employees proposing to adopt a child, enabling them to take time off to attend up to five adoption appointments. The time off must be paid where the employee is adopting the child on their own. If the employee is adopting jointly then one of the parents may elect to receive the time off as paid and the other will be entitled to take the time off as unpaid.

For further advice on shared parental leave and pay issues, call David McCraith on 01254 236221 or Michael Shroot on 0161 761 8087 or email