By Daniel Hunter

The reforms to the way parents can share maternity leave are part of the Children and Families Bill, published today (Tuesday).

The government will move away from the current old-fashioned and inflexible arrangements and create a new, more equal system which allows both parents to keep a strong link to their workplace.

It will also see the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees.

Shared Parental Leave

Under the new system:

- Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave as a day one right

- Mothers can choose to end their maternity leave after the initial two week recovery period; working parents can then decide how they want to share the remaining leave

- Fathers will gain a new right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments

- There will be new statutory payment for parents on shared parental leave with the same qualifying requirements that currently apply to statutory maternity and paternity pay

- Those who have adopted a child will be entitled to the same pay and leave as birth parents.

Flexible working

The government wants to remove the cultural expectation that flexible working only has benefits for parents and carers, allowing individuals to manage their work alongside other commitments. This will improve the UK labour market by providing more diverse working patterns. The new system will:

- Extend the right to request flexible working to all employees
- Remove the current statutory procedure for considering requests. Instead employers will have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner.

"Current workplace arrangements are old-fashioned and rigid. The Children and Families Bill will bring the way mums and dads balance their lives at work and at home into the 21st century," Business Minister Jo Swinson said.

"Employers will soon get used to more men taking time off after their child is born and more mothers returning to work earlier, shattering the perception that it is mainly a woman’s role to stay at home and look after the child. These measures will really help our aim of ensuring more businesses are making best use of women’s talents throughout the organisation, from the boardroom to the shop floor.

"This Bill will also allow fathers to have greater involvement in the early stages of pregnancy and raising their child.

"The new system is good for business as it will create a more motivated and flexible, talented workforce. Employers will be able to attract and retain women and prevent them from dropping out of the world of work once they start a family. Flexible working will also help widen the pool of talent in the labour market, helping to drive growth."

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