Employers may have to make parental leave policies available online

The government has announced plans to create a new obligation for employers to inform the public of their approach towards parental leave and pay. In addition, the government also plan to consult on whether employers should be made to advertise from the outset if certain roles have the potential to be worked flexibly. Whilst employers are legally obliged to follow statutory provisions for parental leave and pay, very few choose to openly publish their policies for the general public to view. Many commentators believe that the tendency to withhold this information can place prospective employees at a disadvantage, with some being reluctant to ask for more information due to fears of potential discrimination at the selection stage. As a solution, the government have suggested that employers with a workforce of over 250 employees should be required to publish their parental leave and pay policies online, thereby ensuring applicants are fully aware of their potential entitlements should they chose to work for the organisation. The government has further outlined that under these circumstances the term ‘parental leave’ actually incorporates all respective family-friendly working provisions, such as maternity, paternity and shared parental leave and pay Whilst this will undoubtedly be beneficial to potential employees, certain organisations may also experience a significant benefit from this proposal, especially those who offer enhanced rates of pay for periods of parental leave as part of an attractive benefits package. By making this information public, organisations will be able to distinguish themselves from any market competitors, increasing their appeal amongst working parents and ensuring they remain an attractive option for prospective employees. The government has also suggested creating a duty for employers to outline if a job can be done flexibly from the application stage. Currently, employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements providing they have completed 26 weeks’ service. However, even in these scenarios individuals can still be reluctant to make such a request, fearful of how this will be perceived by their employer and how it could impact their position in the organisation. This flexible working proposal should appeal to a growing number of individuals who currently work, or wish to work, outside of the traditional 9am-5pm routine. Additionally, it has also been said that an improved approach to flexible working could help address the existing gender pay gap, allowing mothers the ability to juggle their work and childcare commitments without putting their careers on hold. Whilst we wait to see the eventual result of the consultation, it is clear that the government are keen to place additional obligations on employers to make their workplace a more open and accommodating environment, especially for parents and those with other care commitments. In the meantime, employers are advised to keep track of these developments and ensure their policies regarding family-friendly leave and flexible working are clear and available to existing employees.

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