By Daniel Hunter

Businesses and working families are invited to submit their views on how the system for shared parental leave and pay will work, Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson announced today (Monday).

The consultation will look at how the new system will work and fit together with current arrangements for maternity and paternity leave and adopters, as part of the government’s commitment to create a modern workplace.

This will influence how the government legislates under the Children and Families Bill 2013, introduced earlier this month which includes the proposals for shared parental leave and flexible working.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

"It's high time that the existing system of maternity leave is overhauled so that it's easier for women to get back to work earlier if they choose.

"A new system of shared parental leave is not only good news for parents and parents-to-be, but for employers who will benefit from having a workforce that is more flexible and motivated.

"We now want to hear from working families and employers on how they think this can work in a way that's simplest all round for those involved."

Business Minister Jo Swinson said:

“Current workplace arrangements for maternity leave are old-fashioned and rigid. Our measures for shared parental leave and flexible working give us a great opportunity to make our workforce even more flexible, help working families and boost economic growth.

“Crucially, these proposals will drive a real cultural shift and help working dads play a greater role in their child’s early months. We want to shatter the perception that it is mainly a woman’s role to stay at home and look after the child, and also that flexible working only has benefits for parents and carers. Employers too can gain from a system which allows them keep talented women in the workforce and have more motivated and productive staff.

“This consultation will ensure we get the detail right for business and families on how these new proposals will work. The first thought we always had when designing this system was that it did not add significant burdens to business and was as simple as possible for everyone to use. This consultation is about getting the detail right so we can achieve these goals.”

The Government will be consulting on the details of:

- Whether it would be beneficial to align the notice periods to inform employers of the intention to take paternity leave and pay
- Eligibility criteria for shared parental leave
- Notice to bring to an end maternity leave and maternity pay, or allowance, if accompanied by a notification of intention to access the shared parental system
- Whether parents should have 1 year from the start of maternity leave or 1 year from the child’s birth date to use the shared parental leave and pay
- How employment protections on the right to return to the same job, should work for shared parental leave.
- How notification to employers will work with the new ‘fostering for adoption’ arrangements.
- In addition Acas is also today launching a consultation on a draft Code of Practice for the right to request flexible working. Under the government’s proposals, announced in November last year, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks or more. Employers are obliged to consider all requests in a reasonable manner.

The current statutory procedure will be repealed and the government has asked Acas to produce a code of practice to help businesses manage this new extended right. Acas will also produce a non statutory good practice guide with practical examples of managing this in the workplace. This will be published alongside the final Code.

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