§ The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Ms Patricia Hewitt)
On 6 April 2003, the Government introduced new employment laws to provide working parents with more choice and support to help them balance their work and family responsibilities, to the benefit of employers, employees and their children.
The new rights include: the extension and enhancement of maternity leave and pay, so that most new mothers can take six months' paid leave with a further six months' unpaid if they want; the introduction of two weeks' paid paternity leave; the introduction of adoption leave and pay which broadly mirrors the rights available to biological parents; and the introduction of the right for parents with children under six, or disabled children under 18, to apply to work flexibly, with a corresponding duty on employers to consider these requests according to a set procedure.
All these rights have been the subject of extensive public consultation, and we have ensured that we have taken fully into account the needs of business in developing the detail. In particular, the new right to request a flexible working pattern is a light touch approach based on best practice, and has been designed specifically to be workable for all businesses, whatever their size.
We believe that together these changes will help to provide effective n, and we have ensured that we have taken fully into account the needs of business in developing the detail. In particular, the new right to request a flexible working pattern is a light touch approach based on best practice, and has been designed specifically to be workable for all businesses, whatever their size.4WS
We believe that together these changes will help to provide effective support for parents with young children in a way that is compatible with the needs of business.
The new right to apply for flexible working aims to promote dialogue in the workplace, and to create a framework in which culture change can happen more quickly. Employers who already offer their employees flexible working opportunities do so because they recognise the benefits they can bring, such as greater commitment and loyalty, better morale and reduced absenteeism and staff turnover costs. This legislation ensures that flexible working practices are now on the agenda of every business, and encourages employers and employees together to think creatively about the solutions which suit them both.
A package of support accompanies the legislation to help employers and employees use these new measures. Summary and detailed guidance, including sample forms and case study material, is available on both the DTI website and in hard copy, www2.dti.gov.uk/er/workingparents.htm Tailored interactive guidance is also available for both employers and employees on the internet at www.tiger.gov.uk. A national helpline 08457 47 47 47, staffed by Acas advisors is also available.
To ensure awareness of the new rights and of the guidance available the Government has taken steps to highlight these to key business intermediaries and employee and parenting groups, An advertising campaign has also been running in the national press and trade press since February to ensure high levels of awareness among both employers and employees.
Copies of the guidance and the Regulatory Impact Assessments for all these new rights have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.