UK: Further Family Flexibility

Last Updated: 24 July 2006
Article by James Libson and Joanna Blackburn

Thousands of working parents stand to benefit from new rights after the Work and Families Act 2006 received Royal Assent on 21 June 2006. Whilst the greater choice to families in how they balance work and caring responsibilities will undoubtedly increase the burden on employers, the new rights should also benefit employers by helping them plan ahead and manage maternity and paternity leave with greater certainty.

The new Work and Families Act 2006 will come into force in April 2007, building on the significant measures this Government has introduced for working families since 1997. Major changes will be made to maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay, as well as an extension of the right to flexible working. The key new rights for employees are as follows:

  • The current continuous service requirement for women to be able to take additional maternity leave will be removed, so that all women will have the right to both six months ordinary leave and six months additional maternity leave, regardless of their length of service
  • An increase from six to nine months statutory maternity pay ("SMP"), with the objective to increase this to a year's paid leave by the end of the current Parliament
  • In addition to the current entitlement to two weeks paid paternity leave, a new right for fathers to an additional period of paternity leave of up to six months, which will be paid if the mother returns to work before exhausting her full entitlement to SMP
  • The introduction of "Keeping in Touch" days so that, where employees and employers agree, women on maternity leave can return to work for a few days, without losing the right to maternity leave or SMP
  • The right to request flexible working will be extended to those who care for adults (for example, those who are elderly or sick).

Under the legislation, businesses will benefit from:

  • Measures to help better manage the administration of statutory maternity pay, paternity pay and adoption pay
  • An increase from 28 days notice to 8 weeks notice for women returning to work before the end of their maternity leave. This will allow employers to plan more effectively for the return to work
  • Clarity that employers can make reasonable contact with their employees on maternity leave to help them with planning and easing the mother's return to work.

Employers should review any company family related policies and ensure that they are updated to reflect the changes when they come into force next year.

Draft Maternity and Adoption Leave and Pay Regulations

The first steps towards the changes set out in the Work and Families Act 2006 have been included in recently published draft Regulations.

The Regulations will come into force on 1 October 2006 and will apply to employees whose expected week of childbirth, or expected date of adoption, is on or after 1 April 2007.

The key changes are as follows:

  • The right to 12 months maternity leave comprising both six months ordinary maternity leave and six months additional maternity leave. The distinction between the two different kinds of leave is to be retained so as to continue to provide for different rights during the leave and on returning to work after ordinary and additional maternity leave
  • The introduction of "Keeping in Touch" days, entitling an employee on maternity (or adoption) leave to work for up to 10 days after the first two weeks of maternity leave
  • The right for employers to make reasonable contact with employees during their maternity leave
  • The removal of the exemption for small employers which previously allowed small employers of less than five employees to be exempt from a finding of automatic unfair dismissal where a post was not held open for a woman on maternity leave
  • An increase from 28 days to 8 weeks notice for women wishing to return to work early from their maternity leave.

Fixed-term employees deadline

The Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 came into force on 1 October 2002. Regulation 8 provides that if an employee has been continuously employed on 2 or more fixed-term contracts for a period of four years or more they shall be deemed to be a permanent employee, unless the employer can show that the continued use of fixed-term contracts can be objectively justified.

The Regulations provide that any continuous employment prior to 10 July 2002 should be disregarded, making 10 July 2006 the first day on which a fixed-term employee could have acquired permanent status.

In practical terms, since the non-renewal of a fixed-term contract is as much a dismissal for unfair dismissal purposes as a dismissal of a permanent employee, this will not change the situation on dismissal of an employee who becomes permanent.

However, one step that employers should take by 10 August 2006 is to provide qualifying employees with a statement of changes made to their terms and conditions of employment. In particular, information should be provided as to the length of their notice period, given that the fixed term contract will now not expire. Failure to do so could result in employees being liable for awards of between 2 and 4 weeks pay.

Another aspect of the new right is that employees who consider themselves to have become permanent employees should make a written request for confirmation from their employer. The employer is obliged to provide a written response within 21 days, which either confirms the permanent status or gives reasons as to why the contract remains on a fixed-term basis. If an employer contends that the use of a fixed-term contract is justified, employees may, if they dispute the justification, apply to an employment tribunal for a declaration that their contract has become permanent.

This article is only intended as a general statement and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.