New Act promises better work-life balance

Work-life balanceIntroducing a number of fundamental changes to the workplace, the new Children and Families Act 2014 has been published.

For employers with no time to read its 240+ pages, the key sections are those where the Government has tried to provide help for parents to balance work and family life.

From 30th June 2014, for example, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees and, from 1st October, prospective fathers or a mother’s partner will be able to take time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments.

The Act also replaces the current statutory procedure, through which employers consider flexible working requests, with a duty on employers to consider requests in a “reasonable” manner.

From April 2015, mothers, fathers and adopters can opt to share parental leave around their child’s birth or placement. This will give families more choice over taking leave in the first year — dads and mothers’ partners can take up to a year, or parents can take several months at the same time.

Furthermore, adoption leave and pay will, from the same date, reflect entitlements available to birth parents. There will be no qualifying period for leave; enhanced pay to 90% of salary will be available for the first six weeks; and time off to attend introductory appointments will be allowed.

Intended parents in surrogacy and “foster to adopt” arrangements will also qualify for adoption leave and pay.

Welcoming the changes, Employment Relations Minister Jenny Willott said: “Employers will be able to attract and retain women — from the boardroom to the shop floor — and prevent them from dropping out of the world of work once they start a family. Flexible working will also help widen the pool of talent in the labour market, helping to drive growth.”

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