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Family-friendly rights by the end of June?

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FAMILY-friendly legislation giving new parents up to a year off work – six weeks of which would be paid by employers – could come into force on 28 June, if politicians agree.

Deputy Judy Martin

But, in a new development, businesses are to be given temporary financial help to cope with the changes amid the ongoing challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

Yesterday Social Security Minister Judy Martin announced in the States that she was pressing ahead with lodging the Appointed Day Act that must be approved to allow the changes to come into effect. The Assembly already previously agreed the changes.

However, Deputy Martin said that alterations to the benefits laws which would make both parents eligible for financial support from the government had been delayed and were now not due to be in place until next year. However, she added that she was not prepared to let the whole plan to improve the legislation get held up.

Deputy Martin therefore revealed plans to implement a temporary subsidy scheme to support employers in the meantime.

Speaking in the States yesterday, she said: ‘Over the past eight weeks this work has been completely disrupted by Covid-19 and the original timetable of implementing the two laws together in July 2020 can no longer be achieved.

‘Jersey has lagged behind family-friendly rights for a number of years and I am not prepared for this to be late on my watch.

‘At this time of great economic turmoil we must ensure that employers are able to support their employees and appreciate them as valuable members of the workforce. Today, I am announcing that I am bringing forward the Appointed Day Act for the family-friendly employment law changes. Subject to States approval, the law will come into force on 28 June this year.’

The minister added that the subsidy scheme would be in place until changes could be made to make both parents eligible for benefits, something which is now due to happen next year.

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‘I am working with the Treasury Minister to identify funding for the interim scheme to support employers with some of their additional costs,’ she said.

‘As the legal right to take paid leave is extended to all parents, this [subsidy scheme] will be introduced at the same time as the new law.

‘This interim subsidy scheme will continue until the work on parental benefit regulations has been completed, scrutinised and approved by this Assembly. I will aim to bring those regulations forward in late 2020 for implementation in 2021.’

The proposal to extend family-friendly rights and include six weeks of paid leave for both parents had proved controversial before its ultimate approval by the States last year. Some employers argued that the legislation would place too much burden on them and that the States should help to foot the bill.

In the end, the States Assembly approved the proposals, which had been slightly amended to take into account the concerns of businesses, in October.

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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