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More Leave for Working Parents 15 August 2003

Mr Alex Downie, the Minister for the Department of Trade & Industry, has announced proposals to modernise leave for working parents on the Isle of Man. The Minister said "I fully support these proposals to update the existing legislation on maternity rights, this will give women the right to take time off in the crucial first months as their baby starts its life, and to know they will have a job to return to." The Minister continued, "We have aimed to adopt a balanced approach, one that will ease the worries of employers in the introduction of new rights and not be burdensome on smaller employers."

The Department of Trade & Industry has responsibility for introducing employment law. The Minister said, "The Department is committed to full participation of the work force and to keeping as many parents and carers in employment as we can." The Department consulted employers, unions and employees on this topic last year and has now finalised its proposals after due consideration of all the comments received. The proposals were put forward to the Council of Ministers, who agreed that the provisions relating to rights for working parents and carers will be introduced into the House of Keys and Legislative Council in the 2003/4 legislative session, in the form of the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2003. These proposals will then of course be subject to debate and potential amendment as part of the normal process of passage of the Bill.

The proposals will increase the amount of leave available from the current 12 weeks, which falls below international standards, to 26 weeks, with a further 26 weeks available to women who have been working for 6 months for their employer.

The woman is not paid during this time but may receive Maternity Allowance from the DHSS. Fathers will also have the right for the first time to take 2 weeks' unpaid leave when their child is born.

Adoptive parents will also have the right to take time off.

The Department is proposing to help working parents and carers manage work and their other responsibilities by introducing a system for employees to ask to work part time or term time only, employers will be able to justify a refusal of such a request. This clarifies the current right to ask for flexible working which arises out of the Employment (Sex Discrimination) Act 2000.

Parents of disabled children will gain a new right to take unpaid leave, up to a total of 18 weeks, in order to care for their children.

The Employment (Amendment) Bill will contain further proposals in relation to employment legislation, based upon proposals contained in the consultative document "Employment (Amendment) Bill - Review of Legislative Changes". The consultation period on these changes closed at the beginning of 2003, and the Department is in the process of finalising proposals in respect of this part of the Bill.

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