New parental rights get royal assent

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A range of new regulations covering parental and carers rights have been brought together under the Work and Families Act, which has received royal assent.

The provisions come into force on October 1 but the effects won’t be felt by most organisations until April 2007.

Changes to existing legislation include:

  • Extending statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay from six months to nine for employees with an expected week of childbirth that is on or after April 6, 2007
  • Extending the notice a parent returning from adoption leave has to give from 28 days to eight weeks for those whose adopted child is expected to be placed with them on or after April 1, 2007
  • The removal of the service requirement for additional maternity or parental leave so all employees whose expected week of childbirth is on or after April 6, 2007, will receive the same amount of paid leave
  • Employers can make ‘reasonable contact’ with an employee away on maternity leave with the aim of easing her return to work
  • From April 6 next year carers of adults will be able to request flexible working
  • From April 6, 2007 fathers will be able to have up to six months’ paid paternity leave if their partner returns to work before her statutory maternity leave ends
  • Other measures include ‘Keeping in Touch’ days which, if employer and employee agree, will enable a woman on maternity leave to go into work for a few days without losing her entitlement to maternity leave or a week’s statutory pay. In addition, there are also measures to make the administration of maternity, paternity and adoption pay easier for employers.

    Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling said: “Thousands of working families and carers are set to benefit from the legislation. The Government recognises the difficulties many face in trying to juggle work and family life, and the new rights will help make life easier for people across the country.

    “Working mothers will benefit from nine months’ statutory maternity pay and fathers will benefit from plans to introduce a new right giving them extended paternity leave.

    “This will help them to play a greater role in the upbringing of their children. Carers of adults will also benefit from the Act, with the right to request flexible working for the first time.

    “The new rights have been introduced following consultation with businesses, and will benefit employers by helping them plan ahead and manage maternity leave with greater certainty.”

    The new Act also has a provision which will enable the Government to achieve its ambition of extending maternity leave to one year by 2010.

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