The Government has recently launched a consultation paper proposing further reforms in employment law, most significantly relating to parental leave.
The consultation paper suggests radical changes in parental leave, which would come into force in 2015, making it more flexible for both parents and allowing new fathers nearly six months paid parental leave. The right to request flexible working hours would also be extended to all employees under the new plans.
Under the proposals mothers would retain an entitlement to 18 weeks maternity leave. Fathers would have two weeks paternity leave immediately after childbirth with a further 4 weeks of reserved paternity available after this. Significantly the remaining leave of 28 weeks would be reclassified to allow both parents to take more flexible parental leave in different blocks.
The new system would mean that employers and employees would be able to negotiate periods of parental leave that suit both parties which could be taken in chunks or part-time. This would allow parents to balance family life and the requirements of employers.
Importantly if an agreement cannot be reached over the periods of parental leave employers would be able to ensure that parents take their full allocation of leave in one continuous block.
The consultation also suggests that the Working Time Regulations should adopt ECJ case law, which would allow employees who haven’t had the chance to receive accrued holiday pay, due to long term sickness or maternity leave, to carry over the untaken holiday into the following year.
Equal pay hasn’t escaped possible reform either with the consultation paper outlining a new duty for employment tribunals to oblige employees to conduct a pay audit if they have acted in breach of equal pay legislation.
Lindsey Kidd, Partner at Hillyer McKeown LLP, said “These new areas of reform provide employers with even more to address. Particular care and attention will have to be taken by employers when dealing with parental leave and it is envisaged that employers will have to police entitlements taken between parents themselves, for example by way of self certification. Again, clear policies and procedures will be fundamental to ensuring both employers and employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities.”
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