What Are the Different Family-Friendly Policies?
Currently, there is a plethora of family-friendly rights recognised by UK employment law and case law. Some of them directly touch on family matters, while others only do so tangentially.
They are (just to name a few):
- Maternity and paternity leaves
- Adoption leave
- Unpaid parental leave
- Time off for dependents
- Flexible working
We will look at each of these areas below to show you what is in employment law for each of them and what you could offer as an employer to meet certain requirements and provide a better work-life balance for your employees.
- What Are the Different Family-Friendly Policies?
- What Does Work-Life Balance Mean?
- Maternity Leave
- Paternity Leave
- Adoption Leave
- Unpaid Parental Leave
- Eligibility for Parental Leave
- Time Off for Dependents
- Bereavement or Compassionate Leave
- Flexible Working
- Childcare Policies
- How We Can Help
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Work-Life Balance Mean?
The work-life balance in this context refers to a point of equilibrium in which employees give equal or similar priority to both career and personal demands.
The subject of work-life balance has been trending in recent years, particularly since the introduction of flexible work and the progressive abandonment of the traditional “9-to-5” working culture so predominant in the past.
These increasing changes present both employers and employees with excellent opportunities but, correlatively, various other challenges. As the lines that separate family life from work have been blurred, the debate on how to acquire this “balance” intensifies.
Current employment law is attempting to raise awareness about the role of the family within the framework of working relationships and how employers should create the conditions for the satisfaction of their employees’ family needs. These efforts are made in line with regulations on children’s protection, gender equality, and women’s rights, among various others.
By implementing family-friendly policies, you ultimately help increase staff loyalty and retention rate. It also boosts their productivity and morale, giving you better yields in the long run.
Female employees have the right to time off from work sometime before and after childbirth. This is granted to ensure the safety of the baby and the mother. You must approve her leave within the next 28 days of notice, stating the start and end dates in writing.
The statutory maternity leave should be granted for 52 weeks, irrespective of how long the pregnant employee has worked for you. You could agree to more ample terms, provided that they don’t affect her interests. Moreover, after the leave ends, the employee can request flexible working conditions.
The 52 weeks mentioned above are split into two 26-week periods. The first 26 weeks correspond to ordinary maternity leave, while the other 26 correspond to “additional maternity leave”.
Ordinary Maternity Leave
During ordinary maternity leave, the employee is entitled to all benefits laid out in the contract of employment, except for those related to remuneration. Some of the protected terms include pension contributions and statutory maternity pay (SMP).
When the leave ends, the employee has the right to return to the same job.
Additional Maternity Leave
After the ordinary maternity leave expires, the employee can request another 26 weeks of “additional maternity leave”.
The main difference between both leaves resides in the extent of the employee’s right to return to work. In this case, you could offer her alternative employment with similar or more favourable terms if you find it unreasonable to allow her to retain the same job she had before.
Compulsory Maternity Leave
Apart from the two periods described above, the mother is bound to take two weeks off after childbirth.
Statutory Maternity Pay
In the first 6 weeks of maternity leave, the employee is entitled to receive at least 90% of her regular weekly earnings. For the next 33 weeks, she would receive either 90% of her average wage or the current statutory maternity pay (whichever is the lesser).
Eligibility for SMP
To be eligible for statutory maternity pay, the employee must have:
- Been on your payroll during the “qualifying week” – as in, the 15th week before the expected date of childbirth, and have been in a continuous employment relationship with you for at least 26 weeks before said qualifying week.
- given correct notice;
- provided evidence of the pregnancy;
- earned a minimum of £123 per week (gross) in a “relevant period” spanning 8 weeks.
Pregnant employees also have the right to paid time off for attending antenatal care appointments, which are not only strictly medical but may also include parenting classes.
Fathers are entitled to one or two consecutive weeks’ ordinary paternity leave within the 56 days after the child’s birth or placement in adoption, provided that they’ve been working for you for 26 weeks continuously at the qualifying 15th week before the expected week of childbirth or the one in which they’re notified of a match by the adoption agency.
Employees must issue notices for paternity leave in the same manner as described for maternity leave. In terms of statutory pay, it’s either 90% of the ordinary weekly salary or the fixed statutory amount if it’s lower.
Just as with maternity leave, you have to guarantee your employee certain rights, such as the right to return to work and accrue holidays and pensions.
Prospective fathers likewise reserve their right to paid time off for accompanying their partner or surrogate mother to two antenatal classes (or more, depending on what’s stipulated on the contract). In like manner, in the case of adoption, you must allow two or more days of paid time off so that they may attend adoption appointments.
By adopting a child, employees are granted similar rights to those who beget naturally. These include leave and pay.
To earn entitlement to adoption leave, the prospective adoptive parent must give notice within the next 7 days of having been notified that they are matched with a child.
Unpaid Parental Leave
Parental leaves are granted to parents who have caring responsibilities for a child under 18 years of age.
This family-friendly leave is taken for the express purpose of tending to the child’s welfare. Under this leave, employees can:
- look for new school choices;
- allow their children to visit other close relatives such as grandparents;
- settle for childcare arrangements; or
- spend quality time with their children.
Statutory parental leave is unpaid, though you may arrange for paid leaves in the respective contracts or staff handbooks out of good practice.
On another note, employees must take whole weeks unless you agree otherwise or the employee has to deal with a disabled child. Nevertheless, employees are not obliged to take their allotted parental leave period all at once.
Employees can take up to four weeks per child annually, albeit the employment contract can amplify these periods.
Parental Leave Period from Previous Jobs
You must be mindful that the period of these leaves is carried over from previous jobs because they’re linked to the children and not to the employment relationship per se. Hence, you ought to observe the period due by the previous employer.
Eligibility for Parental Leave
To qualify, employees must fulfil the following requirements:
- They must’ve been working for the company for more than one year.
- Their name must appear on the child’s birth or adoption certificate, or they must be expected to hold parental responsibility.
- They must not be agency workers, contractors, or self-employed.
- They must not be foster parents (except when holding court-approved parental responsibility).
- Their children must be under 18 years of age.
You could grant parental leave to those who don’t meet these eligibility requirements, albeit you’re not obliged to.
Employees should give you at least 21 days’ notice before the leave’s planned start date. The start and end dates don’t have to be specified in writing unless you require them as such.
Time Off for Dependents
Employees have the right to time off from work to aid dependents in emergency family situations. They have this right from the start of the employment relationship.
The term “dependents” refers primarily to the employee’s child, parent, or spouse. In addition, a disabled person under their care or an individual living under the same roof as them can also be categorised as dependents (excluding lodgers, tenants, or another employee).
There is no maximum number of applications of this kind, though we’d recommend that you speak with your employee if the number of requests is disproportionate and might affect their work substantially. For the record, this is an unpaid leave, though you could agree otherwise.
Bereavement or Compassionate Leave
Employees can be absent from work to deal with emergencies that range from assaults, injuries, and school incidents to unexpected child deliveries.
Paid parental bereavement leave is a statutory right that employees have upon the death of their children 18 years old or younger or stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Parents in these situations can take from one to two weeks (continuous or split) but always within 56 weeks of the occurrence.
Employees who reached 26 weeks’ continuous employment or more have the right to request flexible working. This goes from arranging different working hours to remote work (either partially or wholly). This doesn’t bar you from negotiating flexible working conditions even if the employees/workers don’t meet the time prerequisites, particularly with those who must tend to family matters on the spot.
The Equality Act 2010 lists pregnancy and maternity as protected characteristics, meaning that employees are not to be harassed or discriminated against on these grounds.
In that same vein, part-time employees (especially those who request part-time work due to family concerns) deserve the same treatment as their full-time counterparts, with similar remuneration in proportion to their working hours.
The above is especially relevant when discussing gender pay gap issues, for women tend to request part-time work more often in light of caring responsibilities. For this reason, enhanced parental leaves and extra childcare provisions can aid in improving the work-life balance in men and women alike, allowing them to be more fruitful on both fronts.
You can remind your employees of the different childcare support policies they can benefit from, both those provided by you and by the government. The latter specifically offers the following:
- A yearly tax-free childcare payment for people with children under 12 or disabled children under 17;
- 15 hours of free weekly childcare for parents of 3 and 4-year-olds or those of 2-year-olds who receive government support (30 hours for working parents);
- “Universal Credit” covering up to 85% of the parents’ childcare costs when the children are under 16 years of age;
- Tax credits for parents of children under 16 (and under 17 if disabled).
How We Can Help
We’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to family-friendly policies. As you can see, you’re given a lot of wiggle room to improve your employees’ work-life balance, but you’re also shown a wide array of statutory mandates you should abide by that are not negotiable.
Our team of employment specialists is more than prepared to offer helpful advice on how to secure compliance with UK laws on these matters and improve your policies to make them more family-friendly, always taking into account your present conditions.
Call us now at 03334149244. We’d be more than happy to hear your queries and schedule a consultation appointment with you.
Shared parental leave is a statutory benefit whereby employees can share a maximum of 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay with their partners or spouses during the first year after their child is born or placed in adoption.
Both parties would need to give up some of their own maternity or adoption leave and payment rights to apply for SPL.
Receiving a flexible working application doesn’t necessarily entail an obligation to accept the proposals in their entirety, but you’d rather not dismiss them lightly either. You ought to hold meetings with the employee to hear their point of view and discuss the pros and cons of the proposition. You should also offer an appeal process in case the request is denied.
The differences are numerous, but the most relevant are the following:
- “Time off for dependents” applies in cases involving relatives with whom the applicant has caring responsibilities. On the other hand, parental leaves relate to parental responsibilities exclusively.
- Whereas unpaid parental leave is only approved a limited number of times, “time off for dependents” can be requested as many times as needed, considering that it’s meant to cover emergencies solely.