AN OVERHAUL of parental leave which will allow fathers, rather than mothers, to stay at home after the birth of a child, will be announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today.
In a major speech aimed at tackling the “missing one million women from the workplace”, Mr Clegg is to unveil a proposal which will mean that from 2015 women can pass on all their maternity leave rights to their husbands or partners.
Currently women are entitled to nine months maternity leave on full pay and 12 months in total while men only get two weeks.
The government had changed the rules to allow women to pass on some of their rights to their partners after five months, but Mr Clegg will say today that all of their allowance will be able to be passed on at the discretion of the mother.
The move is aimed at supporting mothers in the workplace to ensure they do not lose time pursuing their career if their partner is willing to take parental leave instead.
The full, paid allowance for men in that period will be based on the woman’s salary which companies can still claim back from the Treasury.
In his speech today Mr Clegg will say: “From 2015, the UK will shift to an entirely new system of flexible parental leave. Under the new rules, a mother will be able to trigger flexible leave at any point – if and when she feels ready. That means that whatever time is left to run on her original year can be taken by her partner instead. Or they can chop up the remaining time between them – taking it in turns. Or they can take time off together – whatever suits them.
The only rule is that no more than 12 months can be taken in total; with no more than 9 months at guaranteed pay. And, of course, couples will need to be open with their employers, giving them proper notice.”
Mr Clegg insisted that the announcement is the first of several to help boost women’s chances in the workplace.
He will say: “These are major reforms and – at a time of continuing economic difficulty – it’s sensible to do them in a number of steps, rather than one giant leap.
“More and more men are taking on childcare duties – or want to – and flexible leave builds on that. The next stage will be assessing if couples are using this new freedom. So flexible leave will be reviewed in its first few years, by 2018, and extending paternity leave will be looked at, as part of that.”
He will promise that the government will create a new legal right for men to take unpaid leave in order to attend two antenatal appointments, so that they can be more involved from the earliest stages of pregnancy.
Mr Clegg, a father of three, will say: “Lots of fathers will tell you that these moments are when it can start to feel real for them.
“Whether that’s at the 12-week scan, or a bit further down the track, when they can find out if they’re having a girl or boy, this new right means no father will ever need to miss out.”
Mr Clegg will also say that new proposals will be brought forward to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.