Maternity and Paternity Leave

The Modern Workplace Consultation was published on 16 May and closed on 8 August 2011. The outcome has been deferred and as of now (March 2012) we believe remains unknown

Proposal to reduce the holiday that can be carried forward

The ECJ ruled that holiday not taken due to illness can be carried forward and taken in the following year. The government appears to propose treating the 4 weeks entitlement under the WT Directive (European wide regulation)and the additional 1.6 weeks under the WT Regulations (which are domestic UK regulations) differently. This will pose potential minor savings where staff have been on long term absence and were unable to take their holiday entitlement but will add further complexity.

Proposals to amend Maternity and Paternity Leave

The consultation sought views on a new system of parental leave which will be characterised by greater flexibility between mothers and fathers and provision to share the Parental leave. There would be an extended right to request flexible working applicable to all employees, and a requirement that employers who lose an equal pay claim should undertake and publish equal pay audits. There would be changes in the way the Working Time Regulations 1998 impact on annual, sick and family-friendly leave.

For fuller details of the proposals see BIS website for the consultation document; in the meantime:-

Parental leave proposals are:

  • Retain the current 18 weeks’ maternity leave exclusively for mothers to be taken in a continuous block around the time of birth.
  • Reserve 4 weeks for the exclusive use of each parent
  • Allow the remainder to be taken by either parent.
  • However, if the mother wishes to take the full 52 weeks of maternity leave, the father’s four weeks of reserved parental leave will be in addition to the 52 weeks.
  •  21 weeks of the flexible leave would be paid, taken in blocks and divided flexibly between parents.
  • The paid leave must be taken before the child’s first birthday.
  • Fathers may take time off (unpaid) to attend two antenatal appointments (or this could be taken from the paid parental leave entitlement).
  • The current age limit for unpaid parental leave (which can currently be taken up to the child’s fifth birthday) would be removed, as well as the requirement to have a year’s qualifying service.
  • Retain the current statutory maternity pay arrangements during this period.
  • Retain existing employment protections concerning maternity leave
  • Maintain existing arrangements for two weeks’ (ordinary) paternity leave and pay,
  • Incorporate the existing right to unpaid parental leave beyond the first year of the child’s life into the scheme.

The extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees employed for 26 consecutive weeks proposes:

  • Replace the existing statutory process for considering requests with a duty to consider requests ‘reasonably’.  A new Code of Practice would be provided to guide employers in considering requests
  • Retain the existing business reasons which allow employers to refuse requests
  • Allow employers to prioritise competing requests to take account of the employees’ personal circumstances although employers would still have to show that all the competing requests could not be accommodated, in their entirety, on business grounds.

It is probable that any new system of parental leave will take effect from April 2015.

Sammy Harvey is named as a source of further information at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. We do not have an e-mail address but the snail mail is:-

1 Victoria Street