Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Plan now for new maternity rules

Businesses are being urged to start preparing for major changes to maternity leave rules, which could soon have significant impact on staff working patterns.

Under new Government proposals, mothers and fathers will soon be able to share the statutory maternity leave and pay entitlements.

“Eligible mothers and their partners will be entitled to be absent from work for up to 52 weeks to care for a newborn child, and take up to 39 weeks of shared maternity pay,” said our employment law specialist John Mehtam.

“Parents can choose to be at home together, or to work at different times and share the care of their child by taking the maternity leave in turns. If businesses embrace the changes, they can also benefit from being able to have more open discussions about patterns of leave with their employees.”

John, who leads our employment law team  in Telford and Wolverhampton, said it was important for companies to digest the personnel implications of the plans long before they are due to come into effect in 2015.

“Employers will not be obliged to agree to the leave pattern proposed by their staff, and employees will have to give at least eight weeks’ notice of their intentions to opt into the scheme. This is important, because there is a danger that the system could otherwise become complex and costly for companies to administer, and impact on productivity.

“The proposals are part of the Government’s pledge to support working families, so women do not feel they have to choose between having a successful career or having a baby. There is no doubt that, if the plans are given the go-ahead, parents will have much more flexibility to choose how they share care for their child in the first year after birth.”

He said: “Companies should not just look at this as an administrative headache. When worked correctly, employers can also gain from a system which allows them to keep talented women they may otherwise have lost.”

The proposals for shared parental leave and flexible working are included in the Children and Families Bill 2013 which is currently going through Parliament.

“The number of times a parent can notify their employer they want to take a period of shared parental leave will be limited to three. This is a sensible move; it balances the need for parents to use the leave flexibly against the uncertainty an employer may experience from unlimited changes.”