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August 2006

New rights for working parents
.... mean big changes ahead for employers

We have carefully considered the content of The Work and Families Act 2006 which received Royal Assent in June. Whilst this new legislation will deliver great benefits for working parents it will also have a significant impact on all of the UK's employers.

The Act will extend Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) from 6 to 9 months, as well as Statutory Maternity Pay, Adoption Pay and Maternity Allowance. It is the aim of the government to extend this to 12 months by 2010. Further regulations include an extension of the notice period given to return to work from 4 to 8 weeks and the introduction of Keeping in Touch days, which will allow a mother to return to work for short periods without losing any statutory rights.

The implications of the Act are explained fully in UK Training's one-day seminar The Essential Guide to Employment Law.

Significantly, the Act will enable some important future regulations to be introduced by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. This will include the right for fathers to take up to 6 months paternity leave, 3 months of which could be paid if the mother returns to work. It is fully expected that these changes will be in place before the end of this Parliament.

The paternity leave scheme will have the following ramifications for employers.

  • The employer will be responsible for the administration of the scheme.
  • Employers will find themselves facing sanctions if employees abuse the system.
  • The risk of fraud is high, for example from fathers working two jobs or from two men claiming additional paternity leave in respect of a single child.

The Act also extends the right to request flexible working to look after a child to those who have a caring responsibility for an adult, for example an elderly relative. There are other ramifications of The Work and Families Act 2006 which are included in the seminar, The Essential Guide to Employment Law.

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