A VARIETY of legislation comes into force this week, when there are changes to the arrangements for maternity leave and carers. The Works and Families Act 2006 comes into effect on Good Friday, allowing women to take up to nine months paid maternity leave and 12 months total maternity leave, regardless of the length of time they have been with the company. Employees who care for sick or elderly relatives will also be able to request flexible working hours. The much-discussed smoking ban will also come into force in England on July 1 and could result in fines of up to £2,500 for companies that fail to comply with the ban. Employees are able to smoke outside, except in designated non-smoking areas, and anyone caught smoking in banned areas will be fined £50, and spot fines of £200 will be given to businesses failing to display non-smoking signs. The financial impact of this piece of legislation on small businesses should not be under-estimated, warns David Robertson, chief executive of Bibby Financial Services.