What could the election mean for working parents?

Kate Palmer from HR experts Peninsula outlines the family-friendly pledges of the major parties pre-election.

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The traditional top three political parties have made promises that could overhaul the world of employment law as we know it. But specifically, how do their pledges impact working parents?

The party manifestos have unveiled a number of big family-friendly promises.

So to make sure you’re aware of what could be on the cards for parents in your workplace, whatever the election outcome, here’s what you need to know.

The Conservatives want to “give working parents more flexibility” and provide access to wraparound childcare”

In their manifesto, the Conservatives say they want to “give working parents more flexibility” and has pledged £300m for wraparound before and after school clubs by September 2026.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt first announced plans to expand funded childcare in the 2023 Spring Budget, which is currently being rolled out in phases.

The plan is to give parents 30 hours of free childcare a week by September 2025. That’s for any eligible parent with a child aged between nine months to when they start school.

The HR implications of making childcare more accessible could give rise to more parents returning to work or a potential drop in flexible working arrangements [editor’s note: although childcare providers have expressed strong concerns about their ability to meet demand for free childcare].

Labour plans to strengthen family rights and protections

The Labour Party has said they want to remove the qualifying period for an employee to become eligible for parental leave. This would make parental leave a day one right for all staff.

They also want to make it unlawful to dismiss a pregnant employee for six months after their return from maternity leave – unless in very specific circumstances.

As well as family leave changes, they’ve vowed to open up flexible working rights even further so that it becomes a default from day one unless it’s not reasonably feasible. For HR, new flexible working rights could lead to more parents adopting flexible working arrangements and balancing work around their childcare commitments.

Changing flexible working rules would also require employers to update their existing flexible working processes and policies in line with new rules. Labour is also promising free breakfast clubs in all primary schools in England.

The Liberal Democrats pledge to enhance family leave and give everyone the right to flexible working

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to enhance family leave and pay.

They want to make paid family leave available to self-employed workers for the first time. And like Labour, they want to make it a requirement for employers to have published parental leave policies.

On top of this, they plan to increase the length of paternity leave (currently a maximum of two consecutive weeks), boost paternity pay and make it a legal requirement for employers to publish policies around parental leave.

They also want to provide paid neonatal paid neonatal and carer’s leave. Plus, they want to add “caring” to the list of protected characteristics in the Equality Act. So it would become a requirement for employers to make adjustments for staff who have caring responsibilities.

They also want to give everyone the right to flexible working and give workers with disabilities the right to work from home. That’s unless there are significant business reasons as to why it wouldn’t be possible.

Again, if more parents have the ability to have flexible working arrangements, we may see a rise in the number of parents returning to work. And if employers have staff with caring responsibilities, they would need to take the right steps to support them and update their company documents in line with legal changes.

*Kate Palmer is HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula which provides HR and health & safety support for small businesses. For more on what a broader range of parties are offering this election, click here.

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