New rights for parents - a fact sheet

Mar 09 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

New laws to help parents in the UK balance childcare with work, come in on April 6 2003.

Under the new laws, working parents with children under 6, or disabled children under 18, will have the legal right to get their employer to consider requests for flexible working to help them balance their careers with childcare. This new right will apply to both fathers and mothers.

The key measures

  • Parents of children aged under 6 and disabled children aged under 18 will have the right to apply to work flexibly and their employers will have a duty to consider their requests seriously. 
  • Maternity leave will be increased to 26 weeks' Ordinary Maternity Leave (paid) and 26 weeks' Additional Maternity Leave (unpaid).
  • Standard statutory maternity pay (SMP) will increase to £100 a week. In addition, changes to National Insurance threshold will mean that 60% of all UK firms will be able to claim back over 100% of the SMP they pay out - an increase of 10,000 companies.
  • A new right to two weeks' paid paternity leave within eight weeks of the birth of a child or the placement of a child newly-placed for adoption. Payment will be at the same standard rate as SMP.
  • Adoption leave will be introduced for parents adopting a child newly placed with them. As far as possible, provisions for adoption leave will mirror provisions for maternity pay and leave.
  • Rules governing employers' handling of maternity leave will be simplified, and will also apply to the new paternity and adoption leave and pay rights.

These new rights, together with existing rights to parental leave and time off for dependants, will provide parents with more choice to balance work and family life, whilst being compatible with, and beneficial to, business efficiency.

For more information on the employment rights for working parents visit or call the national helpline on 08457 47 47 47.