Government to extend flexible working rights from 2014 and introduce "flexible parental leave" from 2015

The Government has set out its proposals to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees from 2014 and amend the legislation on maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay to allow both partners to take leave at the same time from 2015. 

In relation to the right to request flexible working, the Government proposes, from 2014, to:

  • extend the right to request flexible working to all employees (not just those with parental responsibility for a child, or caring responsibilities for an adult);
  • replace the current "right to request" procedure with a duty on employers to deal with requests in a reasonable manner, and within a "reasonable" period of time;
  • create a statutory code of practice to give guidance on the meaning of "reasonable" to employers; and
  • provide guidance to employers on how to prioritise conflicting requests that are received at the same time. 

The 26-week qualifying period for employees to make a request for flexible working will be retained. The Government has also decided to keep the restriction that means that employees can make only one flexible working request in any 12-month period. 

In relation to "flexible parental leave", the Government has said that it is retaining the default 52-week entitlement to maternity leave, and 39 weeks' statutory maternity pay for eligible women, and fathers' entitlement to two weeks' ordinary paternity leave and pay. 

However, the Government proposes, from 2015, to enable mothers to commit to ending their maternity leave and pay at a future date, and share the untaken balance of leave and pay as "flexible parental leave" with their partner. Parents will need to meet qualifying criteria (a minimum level of earnings and length of service) to use the new flexible parental system. Each parent will need to meet the qualifying criteria for leave and pay in his or her own right. Flexible parental leave will have to be taken in a minimum of one-week blocks. 

The Government will also consider making arrangements for working parents who do not meet the qualifying requirements to receive statutory payments, although such a provision will not be introduced before 2018. 

Similar options will be available to adoptive parents who meet the qualifying conditions, to bring adoption leave and pay in line with the leave and pay rights available to birth parents. Statutory adoption leave will become a "day one" right with no qualifying conditions for eligible adopters who are matched with a child for adoption. Statutory adoption pay will also be amended to mirror statutory maternity pay. 

In addition, the Government proposes giving fathers, and partners of pregnant women, the right to take unpaid time off work to attend two antenatal appointments with their pregnant partner. 

From March 2013, the Government will increase unpaid parental leave from 13 to 18 weeks to comply with the revised Parental Leave Directive (2010/18/EC). In 2015, it will increase the age limit on parental leave from the current five years to 18 years, providing each parent with the right to up to 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave for each child under 18. 


Policy on flexible working Use this model policy to state and communicate the organisation's view on flexible working, and to implement the law that gives eligible employees the right to request flexible working. 

The XpertHR employment law manual provides guidance on the current law on: