New Rights For Parental Leave And Flexible Working

Employers should be aware of the key changes which will allow eligible working families to have more choice between work and caring commitments

The Work and Families (Northern Ireland) Act 2015 will come into full legal effect in early April 2015.

This will allow eligible working families to have more choice about how they balance work and caring commitments. Parents can choose to be at home together or to work at different times and share the care of their child during the critical first year.

Adopters will be able to bring their adoption leave and pay to an early end to opt into shared parental leave and pay with their partner.

Key changes

Key elements of the new law include:

  • Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance.
  • If they choose to do so, an eligible mother can end her maternity leave early and, with her partner or the child’s father, opt for shared parental leave instead of maternity leave. If they both meet the qualifying requirements, they will need to decide how they want to divide their shared parental leave and pay entitlement.
  • Adopters will have the same rights as other parents to shared parental leave and pay.
  • Paid paternity leave of two weeks will continue to be available to fathers and a mother’s or adopter’s partner; however additional paternity leave will be removed (shared parental leave will replace it).
  • Fathers and partners will also be entitled to time off for antenatal appointments.

Various changes to adoption leave and pay are also introduced as follows:

  • Statutory adoption pay is brought into line with statutory maternity pay by setting it at 90 per cent of normal earnings for the first six weeks.
  • The right is introduced for prospective adoptive parents to take time off before the adoption to have contact with the child and professionals making arrangements for the adoption.
  • Entitlement to adoption leave and pay is introduced for parents in surrogacy arrangements.

The package of new rights also includes the extension to all qualifying employees of the right to request flexible working.

Read more in nibusinessinfo‘sĀ guide on shared parental leave and pay.