A consultation paper will be issued within the next 3 weeks, to enable people to state which of the Government's proposals are preferred. The proposals include:
- two weeks paid paternity leave for fathers;
- lengthening the period maternity leave is paid to six months;
- extending unpaid maternity leave so a woman could stay at home for a year;
- sharing any increase on existing unpaid maternity leave equally between the mother and father;
- increasing the flat rate of maternity pay - currently £60.20 per week;
- allowing an adoptive parent - either male or female - to take paid leave similar to maternity leave when adopting a child; and
- increasing the amount of parental leave available to the parents ofdisabled children, currently 13 weeks.
The Green Paper also includes several options on flexible working either through legislation or incentives to business including:
- Giving mothers who return early from maternity leave the right to work reduced hours for the rest of that time;
- giving fathers the right to work reduced hours until the end of maternity leave;
- allowing both parents the right to opt to work reduced hours for as long as they wish, when the maternity leave period ends;
- giving all employers the right to refuse a request to work reduced hours if it would harm the business; and
- exempting employers with a certain number of employees from granting any requests to work reduced hours, except for mothers for a short time;
- a kitemark that organisations committed to an appropriate code might display with a mechanism for taking the kitemark away if opportunities for flexible working are removed. This would be backed up with a challenge fund for small businesses to meet some of the up front costs of providing more flexible working opportunities.
Given the overwhelming improbability of legislation before the general election, the Green Paper may be regarded by many as ammunition for campagining rather than an indication of impending change.
Further details can be found at http://www.dti.gov.uk/er/review.htm