Square Circle: Alison Welsh

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The ever changing face of employment law!

As always there are changes being made on a regular basis in areas of employment law. The two most recent ones are the right to request flexible working (from 30th June 2014) and that parents are going to be able to share what at present is called ‘maternity leave’.

The latter change is not clear as yet although we know that new guidelines regarding the sharing of childcare leave between mother and father or partner are coming into effect later this year, and leaves food for thought for employers (and potentially some challenges!). Applying to children born or matched for adoption on or after 5th April 2015, under the new system, parents will be able to choose how they share the care of their child during the first year. Mothers will still take the two weeks following birth (four weeks if she works in a factory), but this is with provision that they can choose to end the maternity leave and share the remainder of the 50 weeks as flexible parental leave. In addition, under these new guidelines it is proposed to allow the husband, civil partner or partner of the pregnant woman the right to unpaid time off to attend up to 2 ante-natal appointments. This leaves much for employers to consider, as the short time frame means employees may begin asking about rights in the autumn, with the added problem that, as yet, the government has not issued any guidance on how the shared leave might be split.

The changes to the right to request flexible working are now in place and this now means that any employee with 26 weeks service can make a request to work more flexibly. The good thing is that it is merely ‘the right to request’ and not ‘the right to have’ flexible working. However, there is still a procedure that employers must follow when faced with this kind of request and the employer has to complete the full process within three months of the request being made.

There was a concern that this right would open the flood gates and employers would experience large numbers of employees making such requests. Perhaps it is taking time to filter down to employees or perhaps because of holidays that we have not heard of large numbers flocking to do flexible working? Or perhaps it’s because to cut working time means a reduction in pay! Who knows – this is probably another ‘watch this space!’

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