Maternity and parental status

Proposals on Shared Parental Leave and Flexible Working Unveiled

By Madeleine Jephcott

Family with a Baby.jpgThe UK Government has set out its plans for a new system of shared, flexible parental leave to be introduced in 2015 and confirmed that it will be extending the right to request flexible working to all employees from 2014.

These proposals originated from the Department for Business Innovation & Skills May 2011 Consultation on Modern Workplaces, which contained a number of proposals aimed at creating more flexible and family-friendly workplaces.

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Plans for Flexible Parental Leave Unveiled

By James Walters

Family with a Baby.jpgThe UK Government's latest employment law consultation paper, Consultation on Modern Workplaces (PDF), sets out plans to introduce a new system of flexible, shared parental leave. This would build upon the Government's decision earlier this year to implement the previous Labour administration's legislation on additional paternity leave with effect from April 2011.

Other proposals covered by the consultation include:

  • Extending the right to request flexible working to all employees.
  • Amendments to the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) relating to annual leave entitlement and its interplay with sickness absence.
  • Mandatory equal pay audits for employers who are found by an Employment Tribunal to have discriminated on grounds of sex in relation to pay.
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Business Red Tape to be Cut

By Hannah Vertigen

CuttingRedTapeII.jpgThe UK Government has announced its intention to review and reduce the amount of red tape faced by business, including the planned extension of the rights to request flexible working and time off for training.

In a speech to the Federation of Small Businesses, the Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable revealed that the Government is planning a range of measures to help small businesses, including a public audit of almost 22,000 existing regulations. Part of the review will include:

  • repealing the regulations extending the right to request a flexible working arrangement to parents of 17-year-olds. These were due to come into force on 6 April 2011. As a result, the right to request flexible working will continue to be available only to parents of children aged 16 and under (and disabled children under 18) and certain adult carers.
  • not extending the right to request time off to train to firms with less than 250 employees. The extension had been due to take effect from April 2011, but had become doubtful following a government consultation last autumn.

The Government is also intending to impose a moratorium exempting businesses with fewer than ten employees and "genuine start-ups" from new domestic regulation for a period of three years. Such businesses will, for example, be exempt if the Government presses ahead with plans to create a new, flexible system of shared parental leave, or extends the right to request flexible working (see above) to all employees. The Government intends to consult on both of these proposals later this year.

Photo credit: ODonnell Photograf

Compensation Limits and Statutory Payments For 2011

British Pounds and CalculatorThe UK Government has announced the annual changes to the statutory limits on certain Employment Tribunal awards and other amounts payable under employment legislation. These will take effect on 1 February 2011.

The changes are set out in the Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2010 (pdf). The most important ones are:

  • The statutory limit on the amount of a 'week's pay' will increase from £380 to £400. Among other things, this figure is used to calculate statutory redundancy payments and the 'basic' award for unfair dismissal. (As a result, the maximum redundancy payment/basic award will rise from £11,400 to £12,000.)
  • The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will go up from £65,300 to £68,400.

The maximum that an unfairly dismissed employee can recover (basic award plus compensatory award) will accordingly be £80,400.

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Prince Edward Island Amends Employment Standards Act

Provincial Flag of Prince Edward IslandBill 2 (pdf), the Employment Standards Amendment Act, 2009, which amends Prince Edward Island's Employment Standards Act, came into force on October 1, 2010. Among other things, the Bill:

  • Increases vacation entitlement after eight years of service;
  • Increases paid sick leave after ten years of service;
  • Adds one day of paid bereavement leave; and
  • Enhances maternity, paternity and adoption leaves.

European Court of Justice Finds Spain's Breastfeeding Leave Statute Inconsistent with Equal Treatment Directive

Under Spanish Law, employed mothers shall be entitled, for the purpose of feeding an unweaned child under nine months of age, to take an hour off during each workday. In addition, the relevant law points out that breastfeeding leave may be taken by the mother or the father without distinction, provided that they are both employed (Section 37.4 Workers´ Statute).

The case in dispute derives from this last legal statement, whose interpretation has brought much confusion regarding breastfeeding before the Spanish labour courts. In the case considered, the employer rejected a male worker's request to enjoy such leave because the mother of the child was not employed, but self-employed. The High Court of Justice of Galicia wonders whether the right to leave should not be accorded to men in the same way as women, and whether the fact of restricting it to employed women and the fathers of their children is not a discriminatory measure contrary to the principle of equal treatment and to Directive 76/2007.

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Сriminal Cases are Initiated in Connection with Unjustified Refusal in Russia

According to Russian employment legislation, unjustified refusal may lead to criminal liability for the employer. The press centre of Investigation Committee of the Prosecution Office (SKP) of the Russian Federation informed, two criminal cases had been initiated in connection with unjustified refusal to hire pregnant women.

The Limited Liability Company "Nata" refused to hire candidates who applied for the vacant position of manager upon recommendation of the State Employment Centre. The motive for refusal was pregnancy of candidates. The cases were initiated in the Vologodskiy region in connection with material elements of offence stipulated by article 145 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (unjustified refusal to hire).

Formal prosecution for such grounds is quite rare, so the cases are in the highlight of Russian media.

New UK Coalition Government - Prospects for Employment Law

UK Parliament II.jpgThe outcome of the UK's general election on May 6 was a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government headed by the Conservative Party leader David Cameron (prime minister) and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (deputy prime minister).

Coalitions are unusual in the UK - the last one being during the Second World War - so there is a real sense of the country entering uncharted political waters. It is too soon to be certain what the new administration's priorities will be in terms of potential employment reforms. However, a few clues can be gleaned from the Coalition's programme for government, outlined below.

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New Paid Parental Leave Scheme Released

On May 4, 2010, the Australian Federal Government introduced draft legislation of Australia's first Paid Parental Leave Scheme. Australia is one of two countries participating in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) without a national paid parental leave scheme. The Bill will introduce up to a maximum of 18 weeks of government-funded paid parental leave for eligible parents of children born, adopted or placed on or after 1 January 2011.

Read the full post here.

This entry was written by Kate Jenkins and Lisa Croxford.

U.S. Health Care Bill Requires Employers to Provide Time and Space for Nursing Mothers to Express Milk

Buried in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the massive health care overhaul legislation President Obama signed into law last month, is a provision requiring most employers to provide rest breaks and an appropriate space for lactating employees to express breast milk.  This provision amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which until now did not regulate employee rest breaks.

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