The government last week provided more information about its plans for a new system of flexible parental leave to help parents balance their work and family commitments.
It also announced that the Department for Business will launch a consultation in the near future to explore proposals for a more flexible system of parental leave.
The consultation will also consider how best to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.
In the meantime, the government has said that the changes should embody the following principles:
- Any new arrangements must maintain women's guaranteed right to time off in the first months after birth, paid as it is now
- Any new arrangements must protect the rights of lone mothers
- The reforms must transform the opportunities for fathers to take time off to care for their children
- Mothers and fathers must be able to share part of their leave, splitting it between them, in whatever way suits them best
- The new system must take into account the needs of employers and it must be simple to administer.
Currently, employed mothers are entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave, 39 of them paid (the first six at 90 per cent of earnings and the rest at a fixed rate which is currently £124.88 per week, rising to £128.73 from April 2011). Employed fathers, on the other hand are currently entitled to two weeks’ paid leave.
The government says ‘this system is inflexible and does not support shared parenting”, but has decided to retain the Additional Paternity Leave regulations agreed by the last government for the time being.
These cover parents of children due on or after 3 April 2011 and give employed fathers a right of up to six months extra leave which can be taken once the mother has returned to work after 20 weeks. Some of the leave may be paid if taken during the mother’s maternity pay period.