Collective Questions – proposed changes to employment law

“What employment law changes are proposed to parental rights and flexible working?”

The Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) has recently launched a consultation entitled “Sharing Parental Rights, Extending Flexibility At Work”. Significant changes are proposed to the law regarding maternity and paternity leave. In addition, it is proposed that the right to request flexible working will be opened up to all employees and not just those with caring responsibilities. These proposals, if implemented will affect all employers.

At present, mothers and adopters have the right to 52 weeks’ leave in the event of having a baby or adopting a child. Fathers or partners of mothers / adopters can avail of up to two weeks’ ordinary paternity leave. An eligible employee can also avail of additional paternity leave if the mother / adopter returns to work prior to the expiry of the maternity / adoption leave entitlement.

Under the new proposals parents will be able to decide how to share out their parental leave during the first year following the child’s birth or placement for adoption.  It is not proposed that parents will be required to set out their plans for the year from the outset. Rather, it is proposed that employees will be required to give their employer 8 weeks’ notice when requesting new blocks of leave or varying an existing request for leave.

In relation to the entitlement to request flexible working, this is currently limited to those with caring responsibilities. There is a prescribed statutory process that employers and employees must follow when an employee wishes to vary his or her working pattern. Under the new proposals, the right to request flexible working will be open to all employees. The good news for employers is that the strict time limits currently in force in the legislation will be replaced by a less prescriptive duty to deal with requests in a reasonable manner and within a reasonable period of time.

The Department is seeking responses to the proposals. I am hosting a discussion in Mallusk Enterprise Park on 23rd July from 9:30am to 11:30am to discuss the proposals in more detail. There will be a chance to hear more about the proposals and give your views on how the proposals are likely to affect your organisation. I then intend to submit a response to the consultation, having had the benefit of discussing the proposals with as wide a range of employers as possible. It would be great if you could join us. This event on 23rd July is free but places are limited and we do require bookings in advance. To reserve your place at this event or to find out more information, please email

Collective Questions is intended as a guide and for general information only and is not a substitute for taking specific advice relating to your situation. For specific advice regarding this or any other issue relating to employing people, please do not hesitate to contact us.



One thought on “Collective Questions – proposed changes to employment law

  1. Vertex Law

    A very detailed article, there are always changes occurring in law, especially so in employment law. It is so important everyone is aware of the changes that are being implemented and how it might effect them.


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