Paternity leave – more reform on the horizon

The Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010 came into force on 6 April 2010 and offered fathers the opportunity to become more involved in their child’s upbringing. Essentially, these regulations allow mothers to transfer part of their maternity leave to their partner or the child’s father. The UK Government is now proposing further reform on this topic in the form of a new system of flexible parental leave from 2015. The Government has launched a consultation on its proposals. Ministers say that the aim is to help both parents and employers by allowing them greater choice and flexibility than is afforded by the current regulations which are said to be too rigid and reflect outdated notions of parenting. The proposals provide for parents sharing any leave allowance remaining after the early weeks of paternity and paternity leave have expired. This shared leave could be taken in different chunks and, unlike the current system, parents could both take leave simultaneously. However, if agreement as to the timing of leave is not possible, employers would be able to require leave to be taken in one continuous period. Employers would also be able to ask staff to return from leave temporality to meet any peaks in their business requirements. The aim is to provide greater flexibility to allow for paternity arrangements which suit mothers, fathers and employers. The proposal also details the Government’s intention to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees. The current system offers this right to parents of children under 17, of disabled children under 18, and to certain carers. On another related issue, the consultation also sets out proposals to amend the UK Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) to comply with recent decisions of the European Court of Justice. These European decisions have held that where an employee is on sick leave, they are entitled to be reimbursed for any holiday entitlement which they have missed during the period of absence. This could mean carrying the leave forward to the next leave year which is currently prohibited by the WTR. The proposals recommend amending the WTR to the affect that where an employee has been on sick leave, the 4 weeks basic leave entitlement could be carried forward to the next leave year. However, the additional 1.6 weeks and any further contractual leave could not be carried forward. The consultation document is at http://c561635.r35.cf2.rackcdn.com/11-699-consultation-modern-workplaces.pdf.

Jack Boyle
Trainee Solicitor

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