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14 February 2013

Children and Families Bill published

The Government has published its Children and Families Bill, setting out a wide range of reforms, including the introduction of shared parental leave and the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees.

The Bill follows a consultation last year in which the Government sought views on a number of workplace issues (the Modern Workplaces consultation), to which the Government issued its response in November 2012.

Shared parental leave and pay

Under the provisions of the Bill, from 2015, mothers who do not take their full entitlement to 52 weeks of maternity leave will be able to share the untaken balance of maternity leave, and any remaining maternity pay, with their partner as ‘flexible parental leave’.  Up to 50 weeks’ leave and 37 weeks of pay will be able to be shared in this way, to be taken either concurrently by both partners or consecutively, in one or multiple blocks. 

Adoptive parents will have a similar right to take flexible parental leave.  In addition, statutory adoption pay will be brought in line with SMP, payable at 90% of normal earnings for the first six weeks.

Separate Regulations will set out in detail the administration and the operation of shared parental leave and pay in practice.  A further consultation will be issued in relation to draft Regulations.

Time off for antenatal appointments

The Bill also extends the existing right to take time off to attend antenatal appointments, introducing a right for fathers and partners to take unpaid time off work to accompany a pregnant woman at antenatal appointments on two occasions, each of up to six and a half hours. 

Prospective adoptive parents will also be permitted to attend up to five appointments for the purpose of making contact and bond with the child who is to be placed for adoption.  These appointments will be paid, although in the case of joint adoptions only one adopter can elect to take paid time off; the other adopter will be entitled to attend up to two unpaid appointments.

Right to request flexible working

The Bill will introduce the right for all employees with a minimum of 26 weeks of service to request flexible working.  It will not be restricted to those with parental or caring responsibilities, as at present.

The existing statutory procedure for considering flexible working requests will be abolished; instead, employers must consider such requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ and notify the employee of its decision within three months.

The Bill also includes a large number of reforms outside the workplace, including reforms to the adoption system and family justice.  It is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on 25 February 2013.

A copy of the Bill is available here