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Minister lodges revised family-friendly proposition

10 September 2019

The Minister for Social Security, Deputy Judy Martin, has lodged a revised draft Employment Law which aims to improve family-friendly employment rights.

The proposed amendments to the Law would introduce the second stage of improvements to family-friendly rights for employees, following a recommendation from the Employment Forum in December 2017:

  • 52 weeks of parental leave for all parents, including adoptive and surrogate parents
  • time off work to attend appointments for adoptive and surrogate parents
  • breastfeeding rights, including breaks and workplace facilities
  • paid leave, where necessary, on health and safety grounds for pregnant and breastfeeding women

The draft Law equalises the rights to maternity, parental and adoption leave, by allowing all new parents 52 weeks of parental leave. Parents would be able to take the 52 weeks in up to three blocks, of no less than two weeks each, over a two-year period. This would allow parents to take the leave to suit the needs of their family.
Six weeks of the 52-week leave period would be paid by the employer at the employee’s normal rate of pay.

The draft Law also introduces workplace rights to breastfeed. Employers would have to take reasonable steps to provide facilities at work for breastfeeding mothers to express and store milk, where an employee requests it, acknowledging that in small workplaces it may not be possible to provide dedicated facilities. The draft Law takes into account the cost, the resources available to the employer and the size of the business.

Following additional feedback from employers and the recent review undertaken by the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel, the Minister has taken the opportunity to clarify that any untaken parental leave does not transfer when an employee changes employer. The revised Law also increases the notice period and introduces a test of reasonableness for an employee seeking to change a period of parental leave.   In addition, the revised Law also maintains protection for all birth mothers with a period of compulsory leave immediately following childbirth.

Assistant Minister for Social Security, Deputy Jeremy Macon, said: “We are pleased to present this revised draft Law, which I’m confident will extend the rights of parents while taking account of the issues raised in the last few months by businesses.  As set out in the 2020 Government Plan and subject to States’ approval, the draft Law will be implemented at the same time as the planned extension of parental benefits under the Social Security Law. 

“We want to improve the situation for parents in the workplace, giving families more choice and flexibility to help meet their work and family responsibilities. The changes we are proposing will also encourage gender balance in childcare roles.

“We hope that by providing longer defined periods of leave for each parent, both parents will be able to take an equal part in parental responsibility and encourage a culture change in local workplaces.

“We also strongly support the provision of more breastfeeding facilities and we’re working with the parishes and businesses to improve access and support for mothers. I hope organisations will share amenities where possible. A list of facilities available to breastfeeding mothers across the island will be collated and made available ahead of the proposed Law coming into effect.”

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