Following on from the changes that were introduced last September, proposed amendments have been lodged with the States Assembly to further extend Jersey's family friendly legislation to bring it much closer and in some respects beyond the standards in the UK. The proposed amendments are in line with the previously stated recommendation of the Employment Forum, and subject to them being debated and approved by the States (which is likely to take place on 26 March 2019) would come into force on 1 September 2019.
The key points of the changes are as follows:
- 52 weeks of combined parental leave for all parents, including surrogate parents – this replaces existing separate maternity, adoption and parental leave rights;
- Time off work to attend appointments for adoptive and surrogate parents;
- Specific breastfeeding rights, including breaks and workplace facilities;
- A right to paid leave where pregnant and breastfeeding women are unable to work on health and safety grounds.
It will be interesting to see how these changes work in practice, certainly in the UK based on figures from the Department of Business the take-up of shared parental leave "could be as low as 2%". Whilst Jersey is adopting a different and what it hopes will be a more straightforward system of combined leave, it is likely to take time for new parents to get used to the system and in the short-term take up will probably be low. This should hopefully go some way to reassuring employers, because although they will need to yet again update their policies and procedures, they are unlikely to be met with a wave of requests by fathers to take extended time off, especially as the right to paid time off is still limited to the mother in the first six weeks of compulsory paid leave.
Similarly, the right to paid leave in the context of pregnant and breastfeeding women, is not as wide as it might appear at first glance. This is not intended as a right to paid sickness leave for any maternity related absence, rather it covers the situation where a feature of the workplace is unsafe and the employer is not able to make adjustments to remove this risk. Where the employer becomes aware that a member of staff is pregnant they already should undertake a risk assessment, this new right really follows on from this existing duty so that if following a risk assessment adjustments cannot be made, a pregnant or breastfeeding mother does not lose out financially.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.