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Even more flexibility
The Government has recently announced that from 2015, a new fully flexible system of parental leave in England, Scotland and Wales will replace the current arrangements for maternity and paternity leave. New mothers will be able to return to work two weeks after childbirth and share the rest of their maternity leave with their partner under new plans announced by Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

Parents will be able to take time off together and have a legal right to request flexible working hours.

At the moment, new mothers can take a maximum of 52 weeks of leave after the birth of their child, while fathers are entitled to two weeks of statutory paternity leave of their own. However, since April 2011, both parents have been able to share some of the 52 weeks' existing leave, with the father able to take up to six months beginning after the baby is 20 weeks old.

The new scheme will include arrangements so that:

• A new mother will be able to trigger flexible leave at any point after the first two weeks;
• Parents will be able to share the remaining 50 weeks between them as they like;
• The maximum leave will remain 12 months, nine of them on guaranteed pay;
• Leave could be taken in turns or at the same time;
• Paternity leave will remain at two weeks but is expected to be reviewed in 2018.

Expectant fathers will also be able to claim unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments.

There are still a lot of details to resolve with regards to arrangements that employers would need to put in place, but keeping records is going to be very important to ensure that entitlements are managed appropriately and that businesses are able to plan accordingly for the absences of their employees.

The Government is also planning to extend the legal right to request flexible working to all employees rather than just those with childcare responsibilities.

At the moment, parents with children up to the age of 16, or parents with disabled children up to 18, can request flexible working patterns as long as they have at least 26 weeks of service. Employers must seriously consider such a request, although they are within their rights to turn it down for certain specified business reasons.
Posted on 19 Nov 2016

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