Expansion of Family-Friendly Rights: A Closer Look

5 minutes reading time

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of family-friendly practices in the workplace to better support working parents and caregivers.

As a result, several legislative changes were introduced in April this year to enhance family leave rights for employees.

Employers should familiarise themselves with these new legislative changes to remain compliant and foster a positive workplace culture by supporting families in balancing work and family responsibilities.

Our employment lawyers set out the key changes here.

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Expansion of Family Friendly Rights A Closer Look

Extended redundancy protection for parents 

Employees returning from maternity, paternity, and shared parental leave have priority in being offered a suitable alternative vacancy in a redundancy situation.

If their role becomes redundant, employers must offer them first refusal for other vacancies.

However, if no suitable vacancy exists, redundancy remains a possibility.  

Previously, this protection only applied during the period of maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, but this has now been extended, as below: 

  • Pregnancy and maternity leave: This will start when the employee notifies their employer of their pregnancy and ends 18 months after the child's birth. 
  • Adoption leave: This will be 18 months from either the date the adoption placement starts or the date the child enters England, Scotland, or Wales if it's an overseas adoption. 
  • Shared parental leave: This will be 18 months from the day a period of shared parental leave begins (depending on whether the employee intends to take 6 weeks off or more). 

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Extended redundancy protection for parents

Flexible working requests 

Employees can now make two flexible working requests per year, up from one.

The minimum service length of 26 weeks has now been removed, meaning employees can make flexible working requests from their first day of employment as a 'day one right'.

Employees are no longer required to explain the impact of their request. 

This change does not mean employees have a right to flexible working arrangements as an employer can still refuse based on the eight business reasons which remain unchanged: 

  • The burden of additional costs
  • Detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand
  • Inability to re-organise work among existing staff
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • Detrimental impact on quality
  • Detrimental impact on performance
  • Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
  •  Planned structural changes

Employers are advised to consider flexible working requests seriously, consult with the employee, and respond within the two-month decision period (previously three months). 

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Flexible working requests 2

New Right to take carer's leave 

Employees are now entitled to take one week of unpaid leave in a rolling 12-month period to provide or arrange care for their dependent with a long-term care need.

This applies to those caring for a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, or other dependant with a disability, old age, or illness/injury (whether physical or mental) requiring at least three months of care.

Leave can be taken in individual days or half days, up to a block of one week.  Employees are required to give no less than 3 days notice before taking leave.

However, if the period of leave required is greater, the notice period may be twice as many days as the period of leave required. This notice does not necessarily have to be in writing. 

Employers cannot require evidence in relation to the leave request before granting the leave.

This means that employees do not have to provide proof of their family responsibilities in order to take leave.

Further, an employer cannot decline the leave request but may postpone the leave if necessary to ensure that this fits with the needs of the business.  

ONS reports that 400,000 people in paid employment are providing over 50 hours of care per week, with over 1.4 million providing between 0-19 hours of care a week. 

This disproportionately affects women than men, with women having a 50:50 chance of providing care by the time they are 46 and men having the same chance by the time they are 57.  

Given the number of employees providing unpaid care work, this new entitlement is likely to be a welcome change. 

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New Right to take carers leave

Flexible paternity leave 

Employees have a statutory right to 2 weeks of paid paternity leave in the workplace.

The new legislative changes means that leave can be taken in non-consecutive blocks (previously only one continuous block of leave could be taken, either one or two weeks).

Leave can now be taken at any point during the first year of the child's birth provided the employee gives at least four week's advance notice. 

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Flexible paternity leave

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If you want professional legal advice regarding family-friendly rights, please contact Myerson Solicitor's Employment Lawyers on: