The Government has published the Children and Families Bill, which aims to fulfil a number of commitments it has made on children and families.
In particular the Bill contains the following:
- A new statutory right to shared parental leave and statutory shared parental pay. Whilst the detail remains unclear, the idea is that women will continue to be eligible for maternity leave and statutory maternity pay or allowance but will be able to choose to end their leave and pay or allowance early and share the remaining leave and pay with their partner.
- Eligible adopters will also be able to use the new system for shared parental leave and pay. Adoption leave and pay will be extended to prospective parents in the fostering-to-adopt system, and parents in a surrogacy arrangement who are eligible, and intend to apply for, a parental order.
- A new right for employees and agency workers in "qualifying relationships" to take unpaid time off work to attend up to two ante-natal appointments with a pregnant woman, for a maximum period of six and a half hours for each appointment. Those in a "qualifying relationship" are the pregnant woman’s husband, civil partner or partner, the father or parent of the pregnant woman’s child, and intended parents in a surrogacy situation who meet specified conditions.
- Provisions 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 extension of the right to request flexible working from employees who are parents or carers to all employees. The Bill will also remove the current statutory procedure for considering flexible working requests and allow employers to consider requests using their existing human resources processes. However, employers will be under a duty to deal with applications for flexible working "in a reasonable manner" and to notify the employee of its decision within three months of the employee’s application, unless a longer period is agreed by the employer and the employee. ACAS will publish and consult on a statutory Code of Practice to explain what the minimum requirements are in order to consider a request in a reasonable manner.