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A Flexible Future for Working Families

The Government has recently published the Children and Families Bill (‘the Bill’) which is having its first reading this month following its ‘Modern Workplaces consultation’. The aim of the Bill is to encourage a more family friendly society and more flexible options for working parents. The Bill introduces the following employment law proposals:

Increased rights for partners of pregnant women

The Bill proposes that both parents will be able to share parental leave and pay. Women will continue to be eligible for maternity leave and pay but will be able to end these entitlements early to share the remaining leave and pay with their partner. This is likely to be particularly attractive to families where the pregnant woman is the main bread winner but will give all families the option of increased flexibility.

In addition, employees in a ‘qualifying relationship’ will be entitled to take unpaid time off work to accompany a pregnant woman to up to two ante-natal appointments.

More detail is yet to be provided on how these schemes will operate in practice. Similar rights to those set out above will also apply to adoptive parents.

Flexible working

The current right for employees who are parents/carers to request flexible working will extend to all employees. This could result in an increase in requests being made.

In addition, it is proposed that the set framework for making a valid request be abolished suggesting that employers will have freedom on how to deal with such requests, provided they do so reasonably. It is important employers are consistent in dealing with requests to avoid any potential discrimination claims whilst continuing to provide a quality service to customers.


Whilst employers may feel the Bill imposes yet another layer of bureaucracy and ‘red tape’, it is hoped that it will benefit the economy by facilitating a more flexible approach to working arrangements.  In turn it is expected that this should lead to a more motivated, flexible and talented workforce. Ideally the new structure will encourage more women (who are generally the ones who take a career break or period of time away from work) to stay in work therefore retaining consistency and skills.

It remains to be seen whether the Bill will be approved or whether it will change substantially before it becomes law. To view consultation and the draft Bill visit http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/childrenandfamilies.html. In the meantime, watch this space for further updates.

If you require further advice and guidance on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact Jane Sinnamon on 0191 282 2884 or by email: jane.sinnamon@collingwoodlegal.com.


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