Flexible parental leave to give mothers ‘real choice’

Flexible parental leave to give mothers ‘real choice’

Posted on 19/03/2013 by Phil Hall


New mothers will be able to return to work two weeks after childbirth and share the rest of their maternity leave with their partner under new plans. From 2015, a fully flexible system of parental leave in England, Scotland and Wales will give women a clearer “route back” to work, ministers will announce.

Parents will be able to take time off together and have a legal right to request flexible working hours. Businesses said the plan could help them keep talent but must be simple.

The coalition government has been looking at ways of extending flexible working and making existing parental leave arrangements work better for both partners and conducted a consultation last year. At the moment, new mothers can take a maximum of 52 weeks of leave after the birth of their child, while fathers are entitled to two weeks of statutory paternity leave of their own.

Since April 2011, fathers and mothers have been able to share some of the 52 weeks’ existing leave, with the father able to take up to six months beginning after the baby is 20 weeks old. However, this can only be taken as a single block – as can the leave the mother takes.

Ministers are now promising a new system, to come into effect in 2015, based on “maximum flexibility”. In a speech on Tuesday, the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is expected to announce.

A new mother will be able to trigger flexible leave at any point after the first two weeks’ recovery period
Parents will be able to share the remaining 50 weeks between them as they like
Leave could be taken in turns or at the same time
Maximum leave will remain 12 months, nine of them on guaranteed pay
Couples will need to be “open” with employers and give them “proper notice”
Paternity leave to remain at two weeks but to be reviewed in 2018