The Children and Families Act 2014 has now received Royal Assent. The Act contains a number of employment law changes including a new system of shared parental leave and the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees. The extension of the right to request flexible working is intended to come into force on 30 June 2014.
Shared parental leave
Part seven of the Act creates a new right to shared parental leave and pay for eligible working parents. All employed women continue to be eligible for statutory maternity leave and statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance in the same way as previously. However, if the mother chooses to bring her leave and pay or allowance to an early end, eligible working parents can share the balance of the remaining leave and pay as shared parental leave and pay, up to a total of 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay. Eligible adopters can also use the new system for shared parental leave and pay.
The Act also introduces changes to the existing adoption leave and pay regime, extending it to include prospective parents in the ‘fostering for adoption’ system, and intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement who are eligible, and intend to apply for, a parental order. Adoption leave and pay will also reflect entitlements available to birth parents from April 2015, such as no qualifying period for entitlement to leave and statutory adoption pay being raised to 90 per cent of salary for the first six weeks.
As we reported in our news story of 6 March the Government is seeking views on three draft statutory instruments on the operation of the new shared parental leave and pay system. The Government intends the arrangements for shared parental leave and pay to come into effect in relation to babies due and children matched or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015.
Time off work for ante-natal care
Part eight of the Act creates a new right for employees and qualifying agency workers to take unpaid time off work to attend up to two ante-natal appointments with a pregnant woman. The right is available to the pregnant woman’s husband, civil partner or partner (including same-sex partners), the father or parent of a pregnant woman’s child, and intended parents in a surrogacy situation who meet specified conditions. Provision is also made for paid and unpaid time off work for adopters to attend meetings in advance of a child being placed with them for adoption. The Government states that these provisions are intended to come into force from 1 October 2014.
Right to request flexible working
Part nine of the Act extends the right to request flexible working to all employees from 30 June 2014. It also removes the statutory process that employers must currently follow when considering requests for flexible working. In future there will be a duty on employers to consider requests in a ‘reasonable’ manner. Acas has published a draft Code and guidance on flexible working to help employers prepare for the changes in the law.