Child's Pay

The so-called family-friendly legislation now encompasses a wide variety of rights (granted to employees but not workers) that employees may exercise in order to assist them with their childcare needs. These rights currently include:      
Square maternity leave and adoption leave of up to 52 weeks (statutory maternity pay and statutory adoption pay are payable (subject to eligibility) for 39 weeks);
Square ordinary paternity leave of either one or two consecutive weeks, for which statutory paternity pay is payable;
Square additional paternity leave of up to 26 weeks if the relevant individual’s spouse or partner returns to work without using their full maternity or adoption leave entitlement (this will be paid if their spouse or partner returns to work with at least two weeks’ maternity or adoption pay remaining);
Square unpaid parental leave of up to 13 weeks for each child up to the child’s fifth birthday (or 18 weeks’ leave in the case of a disabled child up to the child’s 18th birthday) or within five years of placement for an adopted child (or the adopted child’s 18th birthday, if sooner);
Square for employees caring for certain adults the right to request a flexible working arrangement;
Square for parents of children under the age of 17 (or 18 if disabled) who have responsibility for the child’s upbringing, the right to request a flexible working arrangement; and
Square the right to take reasonable unpaid time off work to deal with emergencies involving dependants.
On 8 March 2010 the EU Council of Ministers adopted a new Parental Leave Directive, which replaces the current Parental Leave Directive.  The new Directive increases parental leave entitlement from three to four months. Member states have two years to implement it. However, the increase is unlikely to have a major impact in the UK, given parental leave is unpaid.  There has been considerable discussion about other proposed changes to further extend the family-friendly legislation, in particular by extending the period for which statutory maternity pay and statutory adoption pay are payable, from 39 weeks to 52 weeks, extending the right to request flexible working to all employees, and introducing a new system of shared ‘parental leave’.


All three and four year-olds are entitled to 15 hours’ free early education per week in nurseries, playgroups, preschools, children’s centres or at their childminders, for 38 weeks a year.

In 2010, 38% of all three- and four-year-olds in England were enrolled in non-school education settings in the private and voluntary sector, such as local playgroups.

In 2010, 66.5% of women with children were in employment but only 29% worked full-time.

Sources: Government Department for Education, National Statistics, Issue 36 Jan/Feb 2012.

Workplace Nurseries and Employer-Supported Childcare

Government-driven and trade union-backed initiatives such as the Sure Start Strategy are seeking to encourage greater employer-supported childcare through various voluntary schemes, include the following:

Workplace nurseries: this is where the employer is wholly or partly responsible for funding and managing the provision of childcare facilities (either a workplace nursery or an in-house / on-site holiday play scheme) on work premises.

Childcare vouchers: these are paper or electronic vouchers issued to employees to pay childcare providers for forms of childcare. There are tax incentives and savings available to both employer and employee, which were extended in April 2005.

Enhanced employee rights: an increasing number of employers are opting to provide enhanced maternity, paternity, adoption and parental leave rights over and above the statutory minimum levels, extra statutory emergency leave to deal with a sick child or problems with childcare, and career breaks or sabbaticals.

Pregnancy and maternity is one of the ‘protected characteristics’ covered by the Equality Act 2010.  This means that although some maternity rights apply only to employees, there will be wider protection for other individuals (such as job applicants and agency workers) to ensure that they cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity.  The Act also provides specific protection for women on maternity leave in relation to pay, ensuring they are entitled to receive any pay rises or bonuses that they would have received had they been at work.

To read Mandy Laurie's full article please click here/read the Jan/Feb edition of Workplacelaw