The consultation document "Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families" has potentially far-reaching implications for employers and employees.

The first chapter outlines the UK's existing system of family leave and pay and seeks views on how effective it is in meeting policy objectives such as female participation in the labour market, giving families choice and flexibility and encouraging paternal involvement in childcare.  Although the document does not contain concrete proposals, it asks for views on issues such as:

  • Whether the government should prioritise the amount of paternity pay or the amount of paternity leave offered to fathers;
  • When and how paternity leave should be taken (eg in blocks, within the first year of a child's life, concurrently with the child's mother);
  • If both parents should have a "pot" of shared parental leave and pay or whether mothers should continue to be "gatekeepers" for the system;
  • Whether shared parental pay should be available on an enhanced basis, and if so how that would interact with maternity and paternity pay;
  • How the government could incentivise take up of parental leave for older children; and
  • Whether a complete overhaul of existing structures is needed, with the government moving towards a set of family leave entitlements instead of the current approach of individual rights.

The second chapter contains a proposal for a new right to neonatal leave and pay. This would be a "day one" right designed to ensure that parents of seriously ill babies have a right to be absent from work while a child is receiving neonatal care in hospital independent of the right to maternity and paternity leave. The new right would apply to parents of babies needing two weeks or more of neonatal care and there would be a limit on the number of weeks' leave available.

Finally, the government is asking for views on whether employers with 250 or more staff should be obliged to publish their family related leave and pay and flexible working policies on their websites. This is designed to give employees more choice and flexibility and help to close the gender pay gap. The government is also consulting on whether employers should be required to set out their approach to flexible working in job advertisements and if so, how that could be achieved in practice and how the requirement could be enforced.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.