The Children and Families Act 2014 received Royal Assent on 13 March 2014. The Act is designed to give greater protection to vulnerable children, provide better support for children whose parents are separating, create a new system to help children with special educational needs and disabilities, and to help parents balance work and family life.
The Act will introduce several changes for working parents, including the following:
• From 30 June 2014, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ service. The current statutory procedure that employers must follow when considering flexible working requests will be replaced with a duty on employers to consider requests in a reasonable manner, supplemented by a statutory code of practice from Acas;
• From 1 October 2014, fathers and partners will be able to take time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments;
• From 5 April 2015, mothers, fathers or adopters will be able to opt to take shared parental leave within the first year after the birth or adoption placement. This will apply to parents of babies due or children placed for adoption on or after this date. Adopters’ pay and leave entitlements will also be brought into line with those of birth parents – no qualifying period for leave; enhanced pay to 90% of salary for the first 6 weeks and time off to attend introductory appointments. Intended parents in surrogacy and ‘foster to adopt’ arrangements will also qualify for adoption leave and pay.