With the spotlight being firmly on the introduction of age discrimination legislation, implemented as of 1 October 2006, the introduction of the Work & Families Act 2006 on the same day seems to have faded into the background. HR consultant Sandra Beale reports.
This important piece of legislation brings some quite dramatic changes to existing family friendly laws including the extension of maternity leave and pay to 39 weeks from 1 April 2007. This affects mothers less than three months pregnant on 1 October 2006.
Maternity pay will still remain as 90% of salary for the first six weeks then £108.85 per week for 33 weeks although this amount may increase as it usually does annually.
From 1 April 2007, some of the mother’s paid leave will become transferable to the father if she returns to work within six months but before the end of her maternity leave period.
The phrase “statutory maternity leave” will cover both ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave. Whereas currently an employee must have been employed for 26 weeks prior to the 14th week before childbirth to qualify for additional maternity leave, the amendments remove the extra qualification requirements so an employee will automatically be entitled to twelve months maternity leave.
Any day start:
There will be the introduction of an ‘any day’ start date for the maternity pay period to help align the leave with the pay period.
Notification of return:
An employer will be required to notify an employee of the date on which the additional maternity leave will end (this will be in response to notification by the employee of the pregnancy).
Introduction of keeping in touch days:
The Act will also introduce ten ‘keeping in touch’ days where, if employees and employers agree, a women on maternity leave can go into work for a few days without losing her right to maternity leave or a week’s statutory maternity pay. This can include attendance at training for example.
Two month notice period:
There will be the introduction of a two-month notice period for women changing their return to work dates from maternity leave rather than the previous 28 days. This should also help employers to plan more effectively for an employee’s return to work.
The Regulations do however also specifically allow for reasonable contact between employer and employee during statutory maternity leave, which should enable employers to obtain valuable information regarding an employee’s intention to return.
Small business exemption removed:
The exemption for businesses with less than five employees or associated employees will be removed from October 2006 and so employees will have the right to return to work in the same or similar job regardless of the size of organisation for which they work.
Paternity leave and pay:
Fathers will have a new statutory right to take additional unpaid paternity leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Total paternity leave should not exceed 26 weeks and has to taken before the child is one year old.
Fathers will be entitled to additional statutory paternity pay, which will effectively be the balance of any statutory maternity pay entitlement, which is unused by the mother at the point of her return to work. The additional paternity pay period can only run until the child is one year old.
Adoption leave and pay:
Adoption leave and adoption leave pay will be extended to 39 weeks. There will also be the ten keeping in touch days during the ordinary adoption leave and additional adoption leave period. The small business exemption no longer applies.
Similar provisions are introduced in relation to the transfer of statutory adoption pay between partners, with the above-mentioned one-year limit starting with the child’s placement for adoption.
Further family friendly legislation:
The Government has further plans to extend family friendly laws with the introduction of a 52 week maternity leave and pay period in due course.
For further information contact Sandra Beale on T: 07762 771290 or email [email protected]