The Coalition Government has announced its intention to bring forward proposals to create more flexible, family friendly workplaces. As a first step, from April 2011 the right to request flexible working will be extended to parents of children under the age of 18. At present, this right is available to parents of children aged under 17, parents of disabled children under 18 and carers of certain adults.
In order to make a request for flexible working, an employee must have been continuously employed by the same employer for more than 26 weeks. Approximately 10.5 million employees currently have the right (8 million parents and 2.65 million carers of adults). The number of additional employees that could benefit from raising the upper age limit to age 18 is estimated at 288,000.
An employer who receives a request for a change in an employee’s contractual working pattern has a statutory duty to consider it seriously and only reject it where there is a clear business reason for doing so.
The Government’s next step will be to carry out a consultation exercise examining how to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees and looking at the design of a new system of flexible parental leave. The consultation will be part of an ongoing employment law review, the stated aim of which is to maximise flexibility for both employers and employees while protecting fairness and providing the competitive environment required for enterprise to thrive.
Meanwhile, the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010 will remain in force as an interim measure for encouraging shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy. The Regulations, which give parents the option of sharing a period of leave entitlement between them, will apply to the parents of children due to be born on or after 3 April 2011.
Employers should be thinking about updating their existing policies and practices to reflect these changes. Contact <<CONTACT DETAILS>> for individual advice.
We have included a more detailed article on the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010. See ‘Government Gives Go Ahead for Additional Paternity Leave for New Fathers’.