26/02/2003

Minister announces new rights for working parents

NIO Employment Minister Jane Kennedy has announced a campaign to raise awareness of new legislation aimed at helping parents of young children to balance their parenting and employment responsibilities.

Speaking at today's launch of the campaign, Ms Kennedy said: "These are some of the most significant new employment rights in recent years. They constitute a balanced package, reflecting the needs of parents wishing to continue in paid employment and also of employers, who need to ensure that the necessary work gets done.

"Employers with good work practices are better able to attract and retain those in whom they have invested. It is vital that they understand their obligations and responsibilities and ensure that their payroll systems and procedures can facilitate the new rights, which take full effect on 6th April 2003.

"Employees are likely to be more content in the knowledge that they are still able to fulfil their parenting responsibilities and consequently will contribute more in the workplace, helping businesses to retain a competitive edge."

The new employment rights include:
  • improved maternity rights, in particular the right to six months’ paid and a further six months’ unpaid maternity leave
  • two weeks paid paternity leave for working fathers
  • adoption leave and pay, equal to the statutory maternity and paternity leave and pay, for parents adopting a child who is newly placed with them
  • reimbursement through refund of National Insurance Contributions of maternity, paternity and adoption payments made by employers, with a full 100% recoverable by small employers as well as a further compensation payment
  • the legal right for parents of children under the age of six or with disabled children up to the age of 18 years to apply to their employers for flexible working arrangements.
Further information, including preliminary guidance on the new rights, is available from the Department for Employment and Learning website at www.delni.gov.uk

Individuals and organisations may also obtain advice on the new rights from the Labour Relations Agency by calling 028 9032 1442.

The package of new rights for working parents in the UK was developed following a series of public consultations during 2001 and 2002.

(SP)

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