Government unveils legislation for working parents

The government has announced it is preparing legislation that will give new and improved rights to working parents of young children in Northern Ireland.

The Employment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 includes a package of provisions aimed at helping parents of young children balance their parenting and employment responsibilities. The new rights will apply to parents who are expecting their children to be born on or after the week beginning April 6 2003.

The order contains provisions which had been included in the Employment Bill in progress through the Northern Ireland Assembly, but which lapsed when suspension of the Assembly occurred.

The new provisions include: six months paid and a further six months unpaid maternity leave for working mothers; two weeks paid paternity leave for working fathers; six months paid and a further six months unpaid leave for working adoptive parents; and the legal right to apply to work flexibly for parents with children under six years.

Around the UK, 3.8 million parents will be eligible to apply for new working arrangements – 2.1 million men and 1.5 million women with children aged under six; and 200,000 parents with disabled children up to the age of 18.

The proposals are the result of detailed studies by the independent Work and Parents Taskforce which was established to look at how best to implement the legislative right for parents of young children to request to work flexibly. The taskforce, headed by Professor Sir George Bain, published its recommendations in the report 'About Time: Flexible Working', in November 2001.

The changes will affect working parents expecting their children to be born from April 6 2003.


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