New work laws as Children and Families Act passed.

Changes that could herald the biggest changes to the world of work have finally been put in place after the Children and Families Act was given its long-awaited Royal Assent in parliament last week.

The legislation – which could come to be regarded as the most significant step forward in working conditions since the 1963 Contracts of Employment Act – gives workers a host of new rights, including most significantly, the right for all staff to request flexible working.

Until now, only workers with children under 17 (or those with disabled children) and those with caring responsibilities could automatically ask their employer to work flexibly. The new law however, which comes into effect in April means any worker with six months’ continuous service is now able to request to work flexibly after 30 June 2014. This includes working from home, doing job shares, working compressed weeks, or taking other forms of flexible working.

The legislation will also provide for other forms of work-life balance. From April 2015 mothers, fathers and adopters can opt to share their parental leave between them, so that parents can either have several months off at the same time or swap leave throughout their baby’s first year. Leave can be taken by either of the baby’s parents (or the mother’s husband or partner) in periods of a week or multiples of a week.

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