Flexible Parental Leave set to revolutionise parents’ lives at work and home

Children laughing


In brief

  • Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave but will only have to take at least the initial two weeks of leave after the birth.
  • Working parents will be able to opt to share the remaining leave as ‘flexible parental leave’ and it will be up to both parents to decide how this is done.
  • Parents will have much greater flexibility about how they ‘mix and match’ their leave, provided that they take no more than 52 weeks combined leave in total.

Flexible parental leave

Under the new rules, all mothers will continue to have a guaranteed 52 weeks of maternity leave if they want it. They will have to take at least two weeks (or four weeks if they are manual workers) before they can return to work to make sure they have appropriate time to recover from the birth.

Should they choose to take advantage of flexible leave, mothers and fathers will be able to opt into the flexible parental leave system at any point from the initial two week recovery period after the birth.

Parents will be required to provide a self-certified notice of their leave entitlement to their employers, with the Government intending to consult fully next year on the detail of how the new system will be administered. Parents will be expected to give their employers eight weeks’ notice of their intention to take flexible parental leave.

The Government will create a new statutory payment for parents on flexible parental leave, with the same qualifying requirements that currently apply to statutory maternity and paternity pay. The new system will not place any restrictions on the flexibility of flexible parental leave but will leave it to each parent and their employer to agree between themselves the pattern of leave.

Fathers will also gain a new right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments. Statutory paternity leave will remain at two weeks, but the Government is to keep this under review and look at extending this period once the economy is in a stronger position.

Flexible working

New proposals have also been announced to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, irrespective of any caring responsibilities, to give greater choice and freedom to workers.

The Government will remove the current statutory procedure for considering requests and instead, employers will have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner. As is currently the case, employers will only be able to refuse flexible working requests on business grounds.

The Government plans to legislate next year and is expected to introduce the changes to flexible working from April 2014 and to flexible parental leave from October 2015.

Clients have access to our online tools. One of those is a Maternity Leave Calculator. It will allow both employers and employees to plan out parental leave, and will avoid any confusion.

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