The Work and Families Act received Royal Assent in June 2006. Certain provisions came into effect on 1 October 2006 and apply to women with an expected week of childbirth on or after 1 April 2007:

  • periods of statutory maternity pay (SMP), maternity allowance (MA) and statutory adoption pay (SAP) are extended from 26 to 39 weeks.
  • the small employers' exemption no longer applies, so employers with five or fewer employees are no longer exempted from a finding of unfair dismissal if they do not allow an employee to return to the same or a similar job following additional maternity leave (AML) or additional adoption leave (AAL).
  • the qualifying period for AML has been removed meaning all employees will qualify for 12 months' maternity leave, as opposed to the previous requirement of having at least 26 weeks' service at the start of the 14th week before the expected week of childbirth in order to qualify.
  • an employee must give to their employer 8 weeks notice when returning from AML or AAL.
  • SMP and MA may start on any day of the week, concurrently with ordinary maternity leave (OML).
  • "Keeping in Touch" days have been introduced. With both parties' agreement an employee on maternity or adoption leave, or in receipt of MA can return to work for up to 10 days during their leave without losing their right to SMP or SAP, or MA respectively.
  • Employers are entitled to make "reasonable contact" with employees who are on maternity leave. 

A further provision comes into effect on 6 April 2007 to give those who care for adults the right to request flexible working (currently only available to parents with children aged under six). Various other provisions under the Act do not yet have a date on which they come into force, including the power to extend SAP, MA and SAP to 52 weeks that the Government indicated they intend to do by the end of this Parliament.

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