BIS is consulting until 8 August 2011 on the following proposals:

  • changing the leave available to parents from no earlier than April 2015.  Fathers are to have leave to attend two antenatal appointments.  Mothers will receive 18 weeks' maternity leave and fathers 2 weeks' ordinary paternity leave. Thereafter, each parent is entitled to 4 weeks’ paid parental leave reserved for their exclusive use, plus a further 17 weeks’ paid parental leave which can be split between the parents as they see fit, and 13 weeks’ unpaid parental leave.

Parents will be able to take the parental leave concurrently and agree with employers to take it in chunks or on a part-time basis. The existing right to 13 weeks' unpaid parental leave to be taken before the child's 5th birthday will be retained (and is due to be increased to 18 weeks under EU law by March 2012) but the requirement for a year's service will be dropped and the child's age cap may be increased.

  • extending the right to request flexible working to all employees, still subject to a 26-week service qualification. The statutory process for considering requests will be replaced with a duty to consider requests reasonably (supported by a Code of Practice providing guidance). Employers will be permitted but not required to prioritise certain types of competing requests. Employees may be able to make an additional request within a 12-month period if the original request stated that the change was expected to last for less than a year.
  • amending working time legislation to reflect ECJ case law and permit carry-over of 4 weeks' statutory holiday if lost due to sickness absence and of the full 5.6 weeks' statutory holiday if lost due to maternity/adoption/paternity/parental leave.
  • requiring tribunals to order a pay audit to be undertaken by any employer found to have gender-discriminated on pay, unless an audit has been conducted in the last 3 years, the employer has other means in place for ensuring there is no discrimination, or the tribunal does not consider it productive. Any such pay audits will have to be published.

The consultation documents are available here.

The Government has also announced (see here) that it is reviewing employment law covering collective redundancy consultation periods, TUPE and discrimination compensation awards.