As the UK Government continues to assess and implement recommendations made by Matthew Taylor in the Good Work Plan, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has launched three consultations, one of which focuses on family friendly working practices. The Government recognises that society’s expectations of what good work looks like are changing. Policies intended to help people participate, succeed and progress in work also need to reflect the aspirations of individuals and families and how businesses operate in the twenty-first century. Employees who are able to work flexibly to manage their personal and working lives are more likely to be engaged at work. This has benefits for them, but also for their employers. Employers who offer more choice to employees in when and how they work are also more likely to be able to recruit from a wider pool of talent within the labour market.

While the UK already has a range of government policies to help employees balance work with other commitments such as parenting, more could be done to better balance the gender division of parental leave and pay between parents. The system of support to families is broad, covering Maternity, Paternity and Shared Parental Leave, flexible working and other ways that try to take account of the different challenges families face.

The consultation, Good Work Plan - Proposals to Support Families, was published mid-July and is seeking views on proposals to better support parents to balance work and family life. The consultation covers three related areas:

  • Parental leave and pay reforms – sets out high level options for reforming existing entitlements which could help parents to balance the gender division of parental leave.
  • A new Neonatal Leave and Pay entitlement - outlines a new leave and pay entitlement for parents of babies that require neonatal care after birth.
  • Transparency of flexible working and family related leave and pay policies – proposal to create greater transparency around an employer’s flexible working and parental leave policies to help close the gender pay gap and to give people more choice on how they balance their in- and out-of-work commitments.

A review of parental pay and leave policies

The Government is consulting on the costs and benefits of different options for reforming parental leave in order to achieve greater equality in parenting and at work. In particular, the consultation looks at possible reforms to two types of parental leave: paternity leave and shared parental leave. The consultation is interested in the emphasis that should be placed on enhancing Statutory Paternity Pay versus the length of Paternity Leave available and how the costs of providing Paternity Leave and Pay should be apportioned between government, employers and parents. When it comes to Shared Parental Leave and Pay the consultation is exploring, amongst other things, the aspects of the scheme that are most successful and the aspects of the scheme that are in most need of reform. The consultation also explores whether Shared Parental Pay should be enhanced and whether there should be a dedicated pot of leave and pay for each parent within the overall scheme. The consultation also seeks to explore how businesses that already provide enhanced Shared Parental Pay respond to any enhancement to Statutory Shared Parental Pay.

Neonatal pay and leave

Neonatal care is provided for premature babies but also for many full-term but sick babies who can spend prolonged periods of time on a neonatal care unit in a hospital as a result of being born with congenital conditions, complications at birth, or experiencing serious health conditions shortly after birth.

The Government is interested in employers’ views about whether a new, additional type of leave and pay is required to support parents whose babies are in neonatal care after they’re born. Existing provisions for other family-related leave and pay rights, such as Maternity, Paternity, and Shared Parental Leave and Pay would be unaffected by this proposed statutory right.

The Government is consulting on the proposal that parents receive one week of Neonatal Leave and Pay for every week that their baby is in neonatal care, up to a maximum number of weeks and that this would apply to parents who have spent a minimum of two continuous weeks in neonatal care immediately after birth. Fathers and partners who are already entitled to paternity leave will also be entitlement to neonatal leave which can be taken at the end of the paternity leave period. Eligibility to pay would be granted on the same grounds as existing rights to statutory maternity and shared paternity pay.

Transparency of parental and flexible working policies

Finally, the Government is also consulting on a proposal to create greater transparency around an employer’s flexible working and parental leave policies. This part of the consultation considers whether employers should have a duty to consider if a job can be done flexibly and make that clear when advertising a role. It is also consulting on whether large employers (those with 250 or more employees) should publish their family related leave and pay and flexible working policies on their own websites and also additionally in a public space such as on the gender pay gap portal.

About the author

Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Adviser, Resourcing and Inclusion

Claire specialises in the areas of equality, diversity and inclusion, flexible working, resourcing and talent management. She has also conducted research into meaning and trust at work, age diversity, workplace carers and enterprise and has worked on a number of international projects. She is the author of several reports and articles and regularly presents at seminars and conferences.

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