The UK Government has announced that it is going to consult on the “modern workplace” with a view to making legislative changes in 2015. The consultation is proposing changes in three key areas: flexible parental leave, flexible working and equal pay. The main propositions under each of those headings are:

  • Flexible parental leave:
    • an entitlement for fathers to attend two antenatal appointments (unpaid);
    • an 18 week period of maternity leave, exclusively for mothers, to be taken around the time of the baby’s birth;
    • the remaining 34 week period of maternity leave would be capable of being shared between both parents;
    • an entitlement for fathers to receive an extra 4 weeks of paternity leave (in addition to the current 2 week entitlement); and
    • each parent would also be entitled to an additional 4 weeks of paid leave.
       
  • Flexible working & working time regulations:
    • the right to request flexible working for all employees (i.e. not just those with children) who have been employed for a continuous period of 26 weeks would remain;
    • the statutory procedure for considering requests would change, with employers being placed under a duty to consider requests “reasonably” (a Code of Practice on this point will be the subject of a future consultation);
    • the right for employees to make a second request for flexible working in a single 12 month period;
    • the right for employers to prioritise requests shall not be subject to Government guidance – an employer would have more discretion in choosing between requests; and
    • the right for employees who are unable to take their annual leave due to sickness, maternity or paternity leave, to carry over their holidays into the next holiday year.
       
  • Equal pay:
    • An employer who has discriminated on grounds of sex in relation to non-contractual pay could be required to conduct a pay audit. 

The Consultation will remain open for comments until 8 August 2011 and can be accessed at http://discuss.bis.gov.uk/modernworkplaces/