The Government has begun a consultation “Creating a Modern Workplace”, which focuses on new plans for flexible working and parental leave.

The key proposals are as follows:-

Flexible Parental Leave:

This will replace the existing provisions regarding maternity / paternity / parental leave to reflect the Government's intention to bring in a system where childcare can be a shared responsibility between parents. The new proposed system is:-

  • 18 weeks maternity leave and pay – this can be taken by mothers in one continuous block around birth. Fathers will continue to be entitled to Ordinary Paternity Leave (1 or 2 weeks).
  • This is then followed by up to 34 weeks of shared "parental leave". This period can be shared between the parents and can be broken in blocks. Up to 21 weeks of this period would be paid (at the rate of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance). Additional Paternity Leave and Additional Statutory Paternity Pay are therefore replaced with this new period.
  • Within this 34 week period, there will be a period of "reserved parental leave", which is exclusive to each parent, ie either or both parent can utilise this right and the leave can be taken concurrently. This period does not reduce a mother's entitlement to a 52 week period of leave (albeit that only 39 weeks would be paid).
  • The existing right regarding unpaid parental leave will be extended. The period of leave a parent is entitled to seek will be increased to 18 weeks (up from the current 13 weeks) and the time period during which the leave can be taken (currently set as between the child’s birth and their 5th birthday, unless the child is disabled) is to be extended. The qualifying criteria of having one year’s employment before the right applies will be removed.

Flexible Working

  • Extending the right to request a flexible working arrangement to all workers who have been with their employer for 26 weeks.

Equal Pay

  • Employment Tribunals that have found an employer to have discriminated on gender in relation to pay will (as opposed to may) be required to order the employer to conduct a pay audit and publish their results (except in some circumstances, such as where an audit has already been conducted).

The consultation, which also covers some other more technical issues, is open until 8 August 2011. These proposals are intended to be implemented over the long term and even if the Government decides to go ahead, some of the changes will not be implemented until April 2015.

The above proposals along with the full consultation paper can be found here.