The Coalition Government has just published a consultation document on its plans for flexible and family friendly working patterns.
Flexible parental leave. This proposal is designed to allow greater flexibility in dividing maternity leave between parents and facilitate shared parenting. 18 weeks' maternity leave will be retained exclusively for mothers. The remainder of maternity leave will be reclassified as 'parental leave' and the proposals would allow this to be taken by either mother, or father, or both. The consultation also sets out the possibility of allowing employers and employees to agree for parental leave to be taken in chunks, or on a part-time basis.
Flexible working. The consultation puts forward the option of extending the right to request flexible working to all employees and not just to those with children under 17 (or 18 for parents of disabled children).
Working time regulations (WTR). A number of recent European judgements have dealt with the interaction between annual leave and sick leave, maternity leave and parental leave. The consultation proposes to amend the WTR to ensure compliance with these rulings, and ensure that holidays are not lost due to sickness or maternity/parental leave. Employers will be allowed to insist that leave is taken in the relevant leave year if at all possible, but the leave can be carried forward to the next year if that is not possible or if this suits business needs. Employers will be entitled to limit carry forward of holidays to the four weeks' compulsory paid leave under the Working Time Directive (i.e. excluding the additional 1.6 weeks required by the WTR and any further contractual leave).
Equal Pay. The government has put forward a legislative proposal which would introduce a duty for employment tribunals to require employers to conduct a pay audit if they have been found guilty of breaching equal pay legislation.
More detailed information can be found in the consultation document.