|What is it?|
The Maternity and Parental Leave etc. and the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2006 are now in final form and will come into force on 1 October 2006. The Regulations themselves are a confusing read because they just set out amendments to existing legislation. However, the key change they introduce is the removal of the qualification period for additional maternity leave. This, and the other changes, are summarised below.
As the next step in this review of family friendly legislation we expect Regulations dealing with the much published right for parents to “share” maternity leave. Regulations containing the detail of this new right are currently in draft form, but are expected to come into force in April 2007. We will, of course, send an Employment Alert as soon as the detail on this has been finalised.
|What is changing?|
The following are the main changes:
- Removal of the current six month service requirement to be able claim additional maternity leave. All employees who qualify for ordinary maternity leave will also automatically qualify for additional maternity leave. This means that all employees will qualify for additional maternity leave. There will still be differences between the two types of maternity leave – for example, an employee has the right to return to her old job after ordinary maternity leave but, if following additional maternity leave that is not reasonably practicable, only to a reasonably suitable alternative role.
- The amount of notice an employee intending to return early from additional maternity or adoption leave must give her employer will increase from four to eight weeks.
- There will be 'keeping in touch days'. An employee on maternity (or adoption) leave can agree with her employer to work for up to 10 days during her statutory maternity (or adoption) leave period. These days will not bring the maternity or adoption leave to an end. Employers do not have to offer, nor must employees accept, such work, which may include training. There will be consequential amendments to the Employment Rights Act 1996 to ensure that employees are protected from any kind of detriment during the 'keeping in touch days' or dismissal if they work or refuse to work such days.
- The small employer’s exemption has been removed. This means that even employers with fewer than 5 employees must allow an employee to return to the same or similar job after additional maternity leave.
|When will the changes take place?|
The Regulations come into force on 1 October 2006. However, the amendments will only take effect in relation to employees whose expected week of childbirth, or expected date of adoption, is on or after 1 April 2007.