HC Deb 07 May 1996 vol 277 cc9-13W
Ms Jowell

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what provision is available to employees of executive agencies under the control of his Department for(a) maternity leave, (b) maternity pay, (c) paternity leave, (d) parental leave, (e) flexible working hours, (f) part-time work, (g) job sharing, (h) leave to care for sick children, (i) home-working, (j) term-time contracts, (k) annual hours contracts, (l) workplace nurseries, (m) child care allowances, (n) carers' leave and (o) career break schemes; and what criteria are used to judge eligibility in each case. [27595]

Mrs. Angela Knight

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the chief executives of the Royal Mint, the Office for National Statistics, the Valuation Office and Paymaster agencies. I have asked each of them to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from A. J. Langford to Ms Tessa Jowell, dated 7 May 1996:

In your question to the Chancellor (ref 27595) you asked a number of questions relating to conditions of service within the Agency. The following address the questions in the order posed:

  • a) Maternity leave: Women are entitled to three months and one week paid maternity leave if they:
    • have one year's cumulative employment (continuous or broken, casual or permanent)
    • are not employed on a casual basis or on a fixed term appointment of less than two years at the time the leave begins.
    • are not on unpaid leave at the time
    • can confirm in writing that they intend to return to work for the Agency after their baby has been born.
    • A further period of unpaid maternity leave may be taken subject to the total leave not exceeding fifty two weeks.
    • If the employee does not qualify for maternity leave the Agency allows up six months' unpaid leave to be taken during or following pregnancy.
  • b) Maternity pay: The entitlement is three months and one week on full pay. Any further leave taken is unpaid.
  • c) Paternity leave: Men are entitled to two days paid leave which may be taken before or after the baby is born.
  • d) Parental leave: The Agency provides up to five days paid special leave in cases of urgent domestic distress, at any one occasion. This is based on management discretion. Unpaid leave may be granted for longer periods.
  • e) Flexible working hours: The Agency operates a flexible working hours system which allows the employee to arrange their working days to meet their domestic (at the discretion of management).
  • f) Part-time work: The Agency operates a part-time system with a minimum of fifteen working hours and a maximum of thirty hours per week. The Agency, at the discretion of management, endeavours to meet the employees requests for their preferred hours of work.
  • g) Job-sharing: The Agency, at management's discretion, provides Job-sharing opportunities for staff wishing to work for only part of the day.
  • h) Leave to care for sick children: The Agency may allow up to 5 days paid special leave in cases of care for sick children at any one time. This is based on management discretion.
  • i) Home working: The Agency does not have this scheme.
  • j) Terms time contracts: The Agency does not have this scheme.
  • k) Annual hours contracts: The Agency does not have this scheme.
  • l) Workplace nurseries: The Agency does not have this scheme.
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  • m) Child care allowances: If the employee is sent on a course by the Agency and has to pay additional monies for child care, the Agency will pay up to £40 per week to help meet the costs.
  • n) Carers leave: The Agency does not grant paid leave to the employee when their carer is on holiday. The employee may be granted special leave without pay. This is based on management discretion.
  • o) Career break schemes: The Agency allows up to five years unpaid leave for career breaks. This time is not pensionable however any days that are worked for the Agency during this time are:
  • All criteria are set out in the VOA's Staff Handbook. Management's discretion applied in the circumstances identified above.
  • Please let me know if I can assist further.

Letter from Keith Sullens to Ms Tessa Jowell, dated 7 May 1996:

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has asked me to reply to your question about special leave etc arrangements.

The following provisions are available to PAYMASTER staff;

  • (a) Maternity leave.
  • Leave to attend ante-natal care and up to 52 weeks paid and unpaid maternity leave.
  • (b) Maternity pay.
  • Three month's and one week's paid maternity leave providing the expectant woman has been working for one year at the start of the maternity leave and intends to return to work. Statutory Maternity Pay is payable subject to the normal rules.
  • (c) Paternity leave.
  • Two days paternity leave is allowed either at the time of the baby's birth or when the mother leaves hospital if this is more beneficial for the family.
  • (d) Parental leave.
  • Special leave may be granted to parents as necessary including for adoptive purposes.
  • (e) Flexible working hours.
  • Flexible working hours are available to all staff at PAYMASTER including part-time staff. Staff may work their contractual hours between 7.00am and 7.00pm.
  • (f) Part-time work.
  • We are prepared to consider any part-time working arrangement providing it is acceptable to the individual's line management. Currently 130 people work part-time representing 20% of all staff at PAYMASTER.
  • (g) Job sharing.
  • Many of the part-time posts are held on a job share basis but this is not always a requirement for working part-time.
  • (h) Leave to care for sick children.
  • Parents may be allowed up to 5 days leave with pay to care for sick children. The amount of leave granted depends upon individual circumstances.
  • (i) Home-working.
  • We do not employ anyone on home working contracts.
  • (j) Term time contracts.
  • We do not employ anyone on term time contracts. Several staff are employed on short notice contracts and one member of staff is employed on a part-year basis.
  • (k) Annual hours contract.
  • We do not employ anyone on annual hours contract.
  • (l) Workplace nurseries.
  • PAYMASTER has a workplace nursery with 27 places.
  • (m) Child care allowances.
  • We do not have any plans to introduce child care allowances.
  • (n) Carers leave.
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  • Short term care may be provided by short periods of special leave with and without pay. For long term care a career break of up to five years may be allowed.
  • (o) Career break.
  • PAYMASTER career break schemes are available to either men or women who have domestic responsibilities which are difficult to combine with work. To qualify for a career break staff must be employed on a permanent basis, have completed probation and have satisfactory performance and attendance records.

Letter from Tim Holt to Ms Tessa Jowell, dated 7 May 1996:

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has asked me to reply to your Question on the provisions made available to employees of executive agencies under the control of his Department as far as it relates to the Office for National Statistics.

On 1 April 1996 the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) merged with the Central Statistical Office (CSO) to form a new executive agency—the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Prior to the merger, both departments operated flexible working practices and made provision for special leave for their employees for the purposes of maternity, paternity and other domestic responsibilities.

Like its predecessors, ONS is committed to being an equal opportunities employer which aims to provide working environment where no-one is unfairly discriminated against and where staff feel valued. To this end ONS has made provision for: alternative working practices; special leave of absence; and special childcare arrangements for its staff. Some of the details of these provisions are still the subject of discussion with our departmental trades union side, but the broad outline is detailed below:

Alternative Working Practices

A wide range of alternative working patterns are supported throughout the agency, including part-time working, job sharing, home-working (both formal and informal), and nil-hours contracts. In addition a flexible working hours system is in operation on each site. Other alternative working practices, such as term-time working and annual hours contracts, are also possible, though they are not in use in ONS at present. Alternative working practices are available for all ONS staff where the nature of the work allows.

Special Leave of Absence

ONS operates statutory rules on maternity leave and pay for all pregnant employees regardless of length of service or hours of work. In addition, more generous levels of pay and leave are available for staff depending on their length of service. For example, permanent employees with one year's service or more are entitled to 14 weeks full pay and up to 52 weeks maternity absence. Two days paid paternity leave is available for permanent employees.

Special leave, both paid and unpaid, is granted to staff in order to care for sick children or elderly dependents and is also granted for adoption purposes and a wide range of other domestic responsibilities. In addition, ONS operates a Career Break Scheme of one to five years for staff with significant domestic responsibilities. All permanent staff are eligible to apply for special leave. Special leave for some domestic circumstances is also made available for casual staff with a minimum of three months service. Each case is considered on its own merits.

Special Childcare Arrangements

ONS provides, or buys into, a subsidised holiday placement scheme at all locations, opens to the children of all ONS employees. At the Newport site it has also been possible to make provision for a subsidised nursery. ONS staff are reimbursed for the cost of additional child care expenses where these are incurred as a result of official business outside of normal working hours.

ONS strives to give all employees the opportunity to develop their full potential and will continue to make provisions, wherever practicable, to facilitate individual members of staff who have particular responsibilities for dependents and require alternative working patterns or special arrangements.

I hope you find this reply helpful.

Letter from Roger Holmes to Ms Tessa Jowell, dated 7 May 1996:

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has asked me to reply to your Question about provisions available to Royal Mint employees.

The details as applicable to the Royal Mint are as follows:

  1. (a) Maternity leave: See Annex A.
  2. (b) Maternity pay: 14 weeks paid leave, plus up to a further 37 weeks unpaid leave.
  3. (c) Paternity leave: 2 days paid leave.
  4. (d) Parental leave: Nil.
  5. (e) Flexible working hours: Available to all employees not directly involved in continuous production work, which involves 24 hour cover, 365 days per year. A regular feature in other areas.
  6. (f) Part-time working: Available to all employees. All requests to date have been accommodated.
  7. (g) Job Sharing: As (f) above.
  8. (h) Leave to care for sick children: Each case judged separately on its merits. Up to 5 days paid leave available for domestic emergencies.

(i) Home-working: Nil Currently under consideration by an in-house working party on alternative working patterns.
(j) Term-time contracts: Nil
(k) Annual hours contracts: Nil
  1. (l) Workplace nurseries: Survey recently undertaken. Not a requirement by staff.
  2. (m) Child care allowances: Nil.
  3. (n) Carers leave: Each case decided on its merits. All requests to date have been accommodated—both male and female.

I trust my reply is helpful.

Royal Mint Maternity Leave

  • The EC Pregnant Workers Directive 92/85 and the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993 provides the right to all pregnant women, regardless of length of service, to 14 weeks paid maternity leave.
  • If taken ill during pregnancy paid sick absence may be authorised in the normal way. However, sick pay is not issuable once paid or unpaid maternity leave has commenced.
  • The entitlement of maternity leave covers 14 weeks paid leave plus a further 37 weeks unpaid leave. Depending on the timing of the leave, there may be an entitlement to a further 4 weeks Statutory

Maternity Pay

  • When employees give notice of their impending absence on maternity leave they must state in writing their intention of returning to work not less than 37 weeks from the week in which the baby is born.
  • Employees must give at least 7 days notice, in writing, of their intended date of return.
  • Whether an employee decides to return to work or not an employee may change her mind at later date.
    1. (i) If an employee changes her mind and decides to return to work, provided she returns not later than 41 weeks after the week of confinement, her resignation may be cancelled and her service may be treated as maternity leave.
    2. (ii) If an employee decides not to return she will have to repay the difference between what she was paid and what she was entitled to (currently 6 weeks pay).
    3. (iii) An employee who wishes to change to part-time duties following maternity leave, cannot demand this of right. Departments will, however, endeavour to assist as work priorities dictate.
  • It is a requirement of law that a certificate stating the 'expected date of confinement' is supplied to the employers, before maternity pay/leave be granted.