On 17th May 2011, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published a new consultation entitled ‘Modern Workplaces’. The consultation focuses on the Government’s plans for flexible, family-friendly employment practices. There are four key elements covered in the consultation:
- a system of flexible parental leave,
- a right for all employees to request flexible working,
- changes to the interaction of annual leave and sick leave; and
- measures to encourage equal pay for equal work between men and women.
One of the key proposals relates to changing the current maternity leave set up. It is proposed that maternity leave exclusively reserved for mothers will be reduced to 18 weeks. There will then be an entitlement of 30 weeks flexible parental leave which can be shared between the parents in whichever way they wish (even at the same time), subject to their employers’ agreement. 17 weeks of this leave will be paid and 13 weeks will be unpaid. An additional period of 4 weeks paid leave will be reserved for both the father and mother. The right to 2 weeks paternity leave will be retained.
Other proposals of interest in the consultation are:
- An extension of the statutory right to request flexible working to all employees.
- A proposal to amend the Working Time Regulations so that where a worker has not been able to take his/her annual leave (because of sickness absence) in the current leave year, he/she can carry it over to the next holiday year, provided he/she does not exceed a four week limit. This will put recent decisions in a number of European cases onto a legal footing.
- The equal pay proposals would allow employment tribunals (which have found an employer to have discriminated because of gender in relation to pay) to order that an employer undertakes a pay audit. The pay audit would involve comparing the pay of women and men doing equal work and investigating the causes of any potential discrepancies.
The consultation closes on 8th August 2011 after which the Government is likely to indicate which proposals will go-ahead. It may take some years for full implementation of any changes and Lawspeed will keep you updated on the progress of the proposals.
If you have any comments please do let us know so we can pass them on to the Association of Recruitment Consultancies which may well respond to this consultation.