These provide for:
- the extension of the entitlement to additional maternity leave to all pregnant employees;
- the extension of the notice period which an employee must give her employer if she intends to return to work earlier than the end of her additional maternity leave from 28 days to 8 weeks;
- the introduction of a new provision entitling employers to make reasonable contact with an employee who is on maternity leave; and
- the introduction of ‘Keeping in Touch’ days to enable mothers to work for a limited number of days during their statutory pay period without losing statutory payments for that week or ending their leave.
In particular, the Government is seeking views on the total maximum days that may be counted as Keeping in Touch days and whether there should be a restriction on the period during which these may be taken.
The draft regulations remove the small employers’ exemption in order to clarify that an employee has the right to return to the same or a similar job regardless of the size of the organization. They also allow for the changes made to the maternity leave regulations to be mirrored in the case of adoption leave.
The Draft Flexible Working RegulationsThe existing provisions, which apply to parents of young and disabled children, will be amended to extend the right to request flexible working arrangements to carers of adult relatives. Rather than attempting to define ‘care’ in order to decide who is covered by the legislation, the regulations will instead define the relationship between the carer and those they care for. The consultation seeks views on options for the definition of ‘relative’ for the purposes of the amended provisions.
The changes to the maternity and adoption regulations will apply to parents of children expected to be born, or placed for adoption, on or after 1 April 2007. The revised flexible working regulations will apply from April 2007.
The closing date for comments on these draft regulations is 25 April 2006.
Paternity LeaveDetails of the Additional Paternity Leave scheme have also been published for consultation. The proposals include the introduction of new paternity leave for fathers or the partners of adopters, enabling them to benefit from leave and statutory pay during the first year of their child’s life if the mother has decided to return to work. The consultation can be found at http://www.dti.gov.uk/er/Additional_paternity_leave_and_pay1.pdf. The closing date for views on these proposed measures is 31 May 2006.
The Government has admitted that there are problems surrounding the proposals that need sorting out. It will be difficult for employers to be certain that an employee claiming paternity leave is a new parent. The minister for women and equality, Meg Munn, has described the problem as ‘technical’ and is confident that a solution can be found. Those who represent businesses fear that this will entail extra work for employers.