On 13 November 2012, the Government announced that it has decided to extend the right to request flexible working from 2014 provided the employee has 26 weeks continuous' service. Previously, this right only applied to parents or carers but this requirement has now been removed.
It is unclear what impact this new system will have. It has been suggested that it will not have a huge impact on the basis that most people who require flexible working are parents and carers.
Flexible parental leave
The Government has also announced new flexible parental rights to be introduced in 2015. The intention behind this is to enable parents to balance working and childcare responsibilities. The current statutory leave and pay which is only available to mothers will (from 2015) be able to be split between the parents. Flexible parental leave will be able to be taken how the parents wish provided that it does not exceed the amount which the couple are entitled to.
From 2013, unpaid parental leave will be extended from 13 to 18 weeks per child and from 2015 this right will be exercisable for both parents for children up to the age of 18.
When this new system comes into force, additional paternity leave will be abolished.
It is suggested that the problem with this new system will be in relation to its administration in that employers will face difficulties in relation to cover if the employees split the leave into various stages. It will also be difficult for the employer to verify what leave the other partner has taken which may prove problematic.