Business Secretary Vince Cable announced consultation on proposals to “encourage greater choice by giving employers and employees the flexibility to find arrangements that suit them both”. Proposals include flexible parental leave and the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees, not just those with children aged under 17 (18 if the child has a disability).
The proposals for flexible parental leave build on and would supersede changes that took effect in April this year allowing fathers to take the second half of their partner’s statutory maternity leave as Additional Paternity Leave (provided the mother has returned to work). The consultation proposes an 18 week paid maternity leave to be taken by the mother around the time of the birth, together with an entitlement to 4 weeks paid parental leave within the first year for each parent (which cannot be transferred to the other parent). In addition, there would be 30 weeks of parental leave,17 weeks of which would be paid at the lower rate of SMP (currently £128.73), to be taken in blocks by either parent. Fathers would retain their right to 2 weeks Ordinary Paternity Leave, to be taken in a single block within 8 weeks of the birth.
Other proposals in the consultation document include amendments to the Working Time Regulations to allow carryover of all or part of the EU minimum entitlement to 4 weeks paid holiday in the event of sickness absence or maternity or parental leave, together with an option for employers to “buy out” the additional 1.6 weeks of holiday over the EU minimum provided under the Working Time Regulations. Views are also being sought on introducing a duty for employment tribunals to order employers who lose an equal pay claim to carry out an equal pay audit.
Consultation closes on 8th August 2011. The full consultation document is available at the link below.