News story

Radical reforms for parental leave and flexible working proposed

Theresa May, the Home Secretary and minister for women and equalities, today backed a consultation on modernising Britain's workplace laws.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Under the proposals, once the early weeks of maternity and paternity leave have ended, parents will be able to share the overall leave allowance between them.

Unlike the current system this leave could be taken in a number of different blocks and both parents could take leave at the same time.

‘We have made great strides in addressing explicit discrimination in the workplace, but disadvantage persists,’ said Theresa May.

‘The solution to these challenges, though, is not more bureaucracy, top-down intervention and politically correct quotas, but policies that go with the grain of human nature and maximise flexibility and choice. That is why we will extend the right to request flexible working to all and introduce a new system of flexible parental leave both of which will contribute to our commitment to closing down the gender pay gap.

‘But where there is evidence of discrimination we will punish it, so we will introduce mandatory pay audits for companies that are found guilty of pay discrimination.’

You can read the Home Secretary’s consultation launch speech here.

What is being proposed?

Flexible Parental Leave

18 weeks maternity leave and pay - in one continuous block around birth

Four weeks of parental leave and pay exclusive to each parent to be taken in the first year

30 weeks of additional parental leave available to either parent - of which 17 weeks would be paid and can be broken in blocks between parents.

Flexible Working

Extending the right to request for all workers who have been with their employer for 26 weeks.

The government will consider publishing a statutory Code of Practice for businesses. It will propose that employers should be allowed to take into account employees individual circumstances when considering conflicting requests.

There are no plans to alter the current 8 business reasons for a business to turn down a request.

The government recognises that legislation is not the only answer to promoting flexible working practices. Non-legislative measures are being developed to promote flexible working opportunities both for those with a job and for those looking for one.

Equal Pay

Employment Tribunals that have found an employer to have discriminated on gender in relation to pay, will order the employer to conduct a pay audit and publish their results (except in some circumstances, such as where an audit has already been conducted).

Click play on the Youtube video below, to hear about B & Q’s experience as a flexible employer.


Published 16 May 2011