The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today unveiled “radical” reforms to parental leave which will be rolled out from 2015.
What are the new changes going to be?
From 2015 parents will be given the right to share the care of their child in the first year after birth.
Only mums will be allowed to take the first two weeks after birth off. But after that, parents can divide up the remaining maternity leave (50 weeks) between them however they see fit.
So a mum could return to work after two weeks, if she wished, and transfer the remaining maternity leave to her partner.
Or parents can ‘chop up’ time together, or even take time off at the same time – as long as no more than 12 months are taken in total.
How much notice will we have to give our employers?
Good question. Details on this are still to be confirmed, but both you and your partner will definitely need to give your employers notice if you plan on splitting up the parental leave between you.
What about pay?
Although maternity leave will become more flexible, maternity pay remains the same (a maximum of nine months at guaranteed pay, with the remaining three months unpaid).
Anything else worth knowing?
Yes. At present, parents with kids under 17 (18 if they’re disabled) can ask for more flexible working hours.
But this right to ask for more flexible hours is expected to soon be extended to ALL employees – regardless of whether they have a child or not.
This could be extremely handy – as it means grandparents could apply for flexible working hours to help look after their grandchildren, for example.
What is wrong with the current parental leave arrangements?
Nick Clegg has slammed the current regulations for assuming that there is just one breadwinner in the family, “Even though the reality is that, in many families, both parents work, often juggling busy lives, often working part-time, often without relatives or friends close by who can help out.”
Who is for it?
The majority of political parties, trade unions and of course parents are all for it, praising the move as good news that will help make their lives that bit easier.
Who is against it?
Leaders of small business believe the measures will create friction between employees and employers. The Federation of Small Businesses and the British Chamber of Commerce are lukewarm at best.
A mum’s opinion
Gargi Singh, a mum of two from South London who runs a chain of dance schools, took a total of just four months off – two before and two after delivery. Her husband works long hours.
She personally never felt the need to take a long maternity break, but is supportive of the new measures for mothers who might not be able to afford childcare: “Increasing work flexibility after childbirth where parents can take turns at leave is good news for society and for employers as well. They benefit from happy workers and lower attrition rates.”