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Does it pay to be family friendly?

PUBLISHED: 15:47 15 July 2013 | UPDATED: 15:47 15 July 2013

Picture by Clint Randall www.pixelprphotography.co.uk

Picture by Clint Randall www.pixelprphotography.co.uk

Clint Randall - pixel pr phototography

What does ‘family friendly’ mean in the context of the workplace? Whilst there are a number of factors that contribute to a family friendly environment, essentially it boils down to how employers communicate with employees and the policies, processes and customs implemented within an organisation to create a family friendly environment.

Children and Families Bill

The Government has stepped in to support this family friendly environment with the recently published Children and Families Bill. In summary, the Bill will allow parents to share maternity leave and pay, and also extends the right to request flexible working to all employees.

What do you need to know?

Shared Parental Leave: Under the new proposals a mother’s maternity leave will be transferable between parents. It will still be obligatory for the mother to take the first two weeks as maternity leave upon the birth of the child.

However, after the initial two weeks parents will then be able to decide how they want to share the remaining 50 weeks’ leave. The mother will therefore be able to elect to return to work and convert her maternity leave and pay into shared parental leave.

Flexible Working: The current legislation only refers to parents and carers being allowed to make flexible working requests to their current working pattern.

Under the new proposals, this right will be extended to all employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks or more (whether or not they have caring responsibilities).

The current statutory procedure through which employers consider flexible working requests is seen by many businesses as being overly complex. In response, the Government has worked with ACAS to produce a “code of practice” for guidance to help businesses manage the extended right.

Adoption: The Bill will bring adoption leave into line with maternity leave by removing the qualifying requirement to have six months’ service, and calculates that adoption should be paid the same way as maternity pay. There are also other new rights, for example time off for adoption meetings.

Time off for antenatal appointments: There will be a new right for fathers and partners to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments.

The Bill’s timetable for implementation is expected to be in 2015. Employers therefore have sufficient time to review their policies and to consider how they will react to such applications. Whilst the Government is trying to give parents a greater choice of when and how they take parental leave, there are many businesses that do not welcome these reforms and see it as more red tape and being disruptive to their business.

Having continually advised businesses on flexible working requests I know that most will welcome the relaxing of the rigid process. However, many believe that the extension of who can apply is going to be an administrative nightmare when dealing with multiple and competing requests. Inevitably there will be requests that will be rejected which could lead to potential tribunal claims.

However, it is not all doom and gloom; effective implementation means not only do employees enjoy a work/life balance allowing them to attend to childcare or domestic responsibilities, but also secures their loyalty and commitment. From the start employers should be clear that family friendly environment is a win/win scenario. Companies want to help employees with domestic responsibilities so they can be at their best at work and give maximum performance.

For more information on the Impact of the Children and Families Bill on your business contact Heyma Holmes at heyma.holmes@bpe.co.uk

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