The good, the bad and the ugly

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31 May 2011

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Or how radical reforms for parental leave and flexible working will have an impact on employers. As part of its plans to create a modern workplace for a modern economy, the coalition government announced a consultation on plans to introduce a new system of flexible parental leave from 2015. Richard Smith, employment law expert and head of business development at Croner has been reviewing the consultation to see what impact it will have on businesses. The good:  More flexibility around when leave is taken and the prospect of breaking the leave up into smaller blocks may suit the employer and employee. Currently leave must be taken in one continuous block. The proposed new system will enable employers to ask staff to return to work for short periods to meet peaks in demand. The amendment of the Working Time Regulations to reflect European Stringer, Pereda and Khan decisions will provide some much needed clarity in respect of annual leave and sickness. The bad and ugly:  Flexible working requests for all workers. Flexible working is not in itself a bad thing and can be of huge benefit to employers and employees. However, the current process requires the employer to hold meetings with employees who have requested flexible working and give written reasons why they turn a request down. If the right to request flexible working is opened up to the entire workforce this will have a massive resource impact on all businesses. Split of leave between working parents. In our opinion this will be far too complex for employers to manage especially where (as is normally the case) employees have different employers and it will require some level of evidence as to which employee is taking what leave and liaison with other employers or employees as to what leave has been taken. In terms of paternity leave, currently additional leave rights are only taken up if pay is associated. So it will depend on whether there is more than the statutory payments on offer (which are generally low) whether the father/partner takes up this offer. Where employers have been found guilty of discriminating an employee on gender in relation to pay, they will be forced under the plans to conduct a pay audit and publish the results. This may be a disproportionate response to some cases where the breach was minor but the organisational effort to achieve an audit is large. 2015 is a long way off and employers shouldn't worry unnecessarily about these proposed changes. Croner will be responding to the consultation paper on behalf of customers. Watch this space for more information.

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