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08 Apr 2024

4 major legislative changes in flexible working and family inclusion

A raft of family-inclusive legislative changes comes into effect this month – what do they mean for employers and how can they boost engagement and retention?

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1. Flexible working

  • Employees can ask for flexible working from their first day of employment.
  • Employees can make two requests in any 12-month period and do not have to explain impact on employer when making a request.
  • Employers must decide on requests within two months unless an extension is agreed.
  • Employers must consult before refusing a request (i.e. meet with the employee to discuss and consider alternatives).

What else employers can do

  • Ensure managers are knowledgeable, helping them understand which types of work are best done onsite or remotely.
  • Explore flexible time as well as flexible location.
  • Be willing to trial arrangements: review deliverables to fit hours and seek feedback. Does it work for the employee as well as for the team, clients/customers, organisation?
  • Foster high levels of trust: measure performance by outputs rather than hours or physical presence.

2. Paternity leave

  • Employees can take paternity leave as one week, two continuous weeks or two weeks at different times.
  • Leave must be taken within 52 weeks of birth/placement.
  • Employees give notice of entitlement to leave plus notice of each period of leave.

What else employers can do

  • Consider the rising trend towards equal leave and/or enhanced shared parental leave.
  • Offer specialist coaching for all new parents to boost retention a confident return and keep career on track.
  • Train internal buddies or mentors to provide peer support.

3. Protection from redundancy in connection with family leave

The right to be offered available suitable alternative employment applies if an employee is at risk of redundancy:

  • During pregnancy – once they have notified the employer.
  • While on maternity/adoption/shared parental leave (as was the case pre-April).
  • After return from maternity/adoption leave – for 18 months after birth/placement.
  • After return from at least six consecutive weeks’ shared parental leave – for 18 months after birth/placement.

What else employers can do

  • Be gender-inclusive: noting that this applies to shared parental leave longer than six weeks.
  • Help managers prepare for key conversations.
  • Ensure effective communication at all stages: pre, during and post-leave and return.
  • Make good use of keeping in touch days so the leave-taker is not out of the loop.

4. Carer’s leave

  • One week’s unpaid leave (pro rata) per year to provide/arrange care for dependant with a long-term care need.
  • Employees can take leave flexibly – in periods of a day or half a day.
  • Employer cannot ask for evidence of entitlement.
  • Employees must give three days’ notice, or twice the period of leave requested (if greater).
  • Employers can only refuse if absence would cause undue disruption.

What else employers can do

  • Consider paid leave to differentiate your offering.
  • Support your employees in finding care, which can otherwise be time-consuming and overwhelming.
  • Ensure teams have access to back-up care so they have a contingency plan.
  • Consider a Carers’ Network to exchange advice, offer mutual support and act as the voice of carers in your organisation.

In partnership with Bright Horizons Work+Family Solutions

Bright Horizons is dedicated to providing the best in class work+family solutions.

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