Employment Bill

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Mr. Hammond: I do not have the papers in front of me, but unless my recollection is completely wrong, the amendment on the start date for paternity leave referred specifically to its starting before the expected date of confinement. I did indeed propose, therefore, that the Bill include a start date.

Alan Johnson: I am talking about a different debate, in which I offered the assurance that we would look at putting the relevant provision into regulation, so that it could be more easily amended in future. The hon. Gentleman made a powerful point in that regard, but it related to an argument other than that concerning the start date for a period of leave.

Our proposals are clear. We published them in November, and they are contained in the Library research paper, but I shall go through them again. The period of ordinary adoption leave—paid adoption leave of 26 weeks—will be the same as ordinary maternity leave. We will regulate so that leave can start at any point between 14 days prior to placement and the date of placement itself. The hon. Gentleman suggests a period of 20 days, and I would not die in a ditch over six days. The real difference between us is that we propose to deal with the matter in regulations, whereas the hon. Gentleman wants to include the provision in the Bill. However, the argument concerning a 14-day period or a 20-day period is itself a good reason for making the matter one for regulation and discussion. After experience of the former period, we might think that it should be extended to the latter, and if so we would have the flexibility to do so.

The hon. Gentleman's amendments would also institutionalise the notion of employer and employee agreeing leave periods. We have had a canter round the course on that issue, and it would be difficult to establish the concept of agreement while catering for the possibility that no agreement can be reached. There is nothing that we can do, or would wish to do, in statute to interfere with the ability of employers and employees to agree whatever leave arrangements they see fit, and we would certainly encourage full discussion in the workplace to ensure common understanding of an employee's plans. However, as with paternity leave it is important to understand that we are giving employees a new right to leave and to pay. It would be wrong to include in statute anything

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that implied that discussions in the workplace could lead to an employee's signing away—

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It being One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Four o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Benton, Mr. Joe (Chairman)
Hammond, Mr.
Healey, John
Hendry, Mr.
Hughes, Mr. Kevin
Humble, Mrs.
Johnson, Alan
Jones, Helen
Lamb, Norman
Laxton, Mr.
Lloyd, Mr.
Mallaber, Judy
Marris, Rob
Osborne, Mr. George
Pearson, Mr.
Prisk, Mr.
Simmonds, Mr.
Smith, Geraldine
Tami, Mark
Williams, Hywel

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Prepared 15 January 2002