Tom Watkins
Mark Lane

Member Article

Employers must plan ahead, warns Dickinson Dees

The impending overhaul of maternity and paternity leave and flexible working will have significant implications for employers, according to law firm Dickinson Dees.

Tom Watkins, of Dickinson Dees’ employment law team in Leeds, warned that sex discrimination claims could arise when the new system of shared parental leave (paternity and maternity leave) is introduced.

He explained: “The problem could arise if fathers who choose to take shared parental leave are not offered the same benefits as mothers, such as enhanced maternity and paternity pay.

“This would result in less favourable treatment on grounds of sex. Employers have until 2015 to consider how to revise their policies in order to avoid this risk.”

Mr Watkins also explained that under the current proposals, parents will each be able to take different periods of the shared parental leave, both consecutively and concurrently.

“That means a mother can take four weeks and then a father can take four weeks or they can both take time off together,” he said. “Clearly, although the new system is aimed at giving parents more flexibility about caring for their new-born children, this does in turn mean employers will need to be more flexible.”

“I would advise employers very strongly to use the lead-in time before these provisions take effect to ensure that they put systems and policies in place to manage this leave effectively, if they don’t have these in place already,” he added.

Another change that is due to come in next year is the increase in the right to request flexible working. This will be extended to everyone with 26 weeks or more service, not just carers of dependents or children up to (but not including) the age of 18.

These significant changes can be found in the Children & Families Bill 2012-2013, which had its first reading in the House of Commons earlier this year. Regulations will also follow setting out the detail as to how the new rights will work in practice. These new provisions regarding shared parental leave and pay will come into effect some time in 2015.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Mark Lane .

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