Maternity Leave: New Shared Rights Unveiled

02 December 2013

Maternity Leave: New Shared Rights Unveiled

Fathers will have the option of sharing parental leave under proposals to be announced by Nick Clegg, who has branded the current system antiquated.

The Government has published final details of a significant shake-up which they will hope cater for a growing desire by men to play a more hands-on role in a baby's first months.

From 2015 a fully flexible system of parental leave will be introduced in England, Scotland and Wales which will allow new mothers to trigger flexible leave at any point after the first two weeks' of giving birth.

Mothers and fathers will be able to share the remaining 50 weeks between them as they like by taking the leave in turns, in different blocks, or at the same time.

Reforms will also extend parents' existing right to request flexible working to all employees in an attempt to reflect the increased role of grandparents and other carers.

In an effort to allay fears of the impact on smaller firms, bosses will have to agree any proposed pattern of time off and will retain the right to insist it be confined to a continuous block, with no more than two subsequent changes.

The proposal had met strong resistance within government.

The Liberal Democrats fought to stop last ditch attempts by their Conservative partners to drop the policy.

But father-of-three Mr Clegg said change was long overdue.

"Women deserve the right to pursue their goals and not feel they have to choose between having a successful career or having a baby," he said.

"They should be supported by their employers, rather than being made to feel less employable or under pressure to take unchallenging jobs.

"Many businesses already recognise how productive and motivated employees are when they are given the opportunity to work flexibly, helping them retain talent and boost their competitive edge.

"This is good for families, good for business and good for our economy."

The changes, however, have been branded "a nightmare" which would heap more burdens on already-struggling firms by the Institute of Directors (IoD).

Deputy director of policy Alexander Ehmann said: "The IoD understands the case for a system of shared parental leave and how it could help to widen the talent pool available to employers.

"Unfortunately, today's announcements heap yet more burdens on struggling employers at a time when government should be freeing them to create jobs and wealth."

Labour attacked the announcement for providing nothing new to help families struggling with the rising cost of living.

Shadow minister for women and equalities Gloria De Piero said: "Nick Clegg claims to be on parents' side but he and David Cameron have done nothing to support families in the last three years.

"This reheated announcement contains nothing new for families suffering from this government's cost-of-living crisis. It proves you can't trust a word Nick Clegg says."

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