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Government announces plans for the right to flexible working for all

In response to the modern workplaces consultation Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has announced plans for flexible parental leave and the right to flexible working for all. The Government will legislate on these from 2014 with the intention that a new system of flexible parental leave will be in place from 2015.

This might all seem rather a long way away but what does this actually mean?

  • At the moment any parent with a child under 17 (or 18 if disabled) can request flexible working, as long as they have met certain qualifying criteria. The Government proposes the following:
  • The new legislation applies to all businesses.
  • The right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees, not just parents.
  • Employees must still have the existing 26 weeks qualifying period.
  • Only one request may be made in any 12 month period.
  • There will be a duty to deal with requests in a reasonable manner and within a reasonable time period (ACAS is due to produce a statutory code of practice on the meaning of ‘reasonable’ and to produce guidance on how to handle such requests).

Where this flexible working concerns parents, the Government proposes the following:

  • Each parent will need to meet the qualifying criteria for pay and leave.
  • The 52 weeks of maternity leave currently available will remain in place as the default position.
  • Fathers will still be entitled to two weeks’ paternity leave and pay.
  • If the mother returns to work before the end of the 52 weeks, up to 50 weeks of untaken maternity leave can be taken as flexible parental leave. This leave may be taken concurrently or consecutively.
  • No more than 12 months leave in total can be taken and only nine months will be paid.
  • The new system will allow leave to be taken in blocks of one week, if agreed to. If it cannot be agreed to, however, the leave must be taken in one single block.
  • A new right will be created allowing fathers or partners of pregnant women to take unpaid leave to attend two ante-natal appointments.
  • The age limit on unpaid parental leave will increase from five years to 18 years in 2015, giving each parent the right to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave for each child under 18.
  • Unpaid parental leave will increase in March 2013 from 13 weeks to 18 weeks to bring the UK into line with the EU Parental Leave Directive.

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