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Paternity leave overhaul

Meredith Hurst Thursday, January 20, 2011

Speaking at the Demos think tank on Monday the deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg outlined the government's plans for more flexible working arrangements for parents.  Clegg who described the current paternity leave provisions as "Edwardian" went on to say that they place too great a burden on mothers.  Fathers have the benefit of only two weeks' paternity leave at the moment but this is set to change. 

In particular fathers will be allowed to share leave with their partners and more importantly the law will allow distinct time off for fathers which will not be transferrable to the mother, in so called "use it or lose it" chunks of time. 

In addition, the government is soon to launch consultation on further enhanced flexible working and family friendly rights.  The consultation is likely to request views on whether fathers should be allowed to take leave after six weeks once the higher rate of maternity pay has expired.  This is one liberal democrat pre-election policy that it appears to be standing by, but small and medium sized business owners have expressed concern at the extent of the proposed changes.

AndrewCavethe chief spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses expressed the opinion that maternity leave is already one of the most challenging areas for small and medium sized businesses.  Extending this to cater for the needs of fathers is going to make it all the more difficult said Cave.  Larger companies with more staff and a dedicated HR department might be able to cope but this could not be said for small enterprises. 

Whilst this policy is likely to prove politically popular and curry favour with a disgruntled electorate we shall have to see whether the legislation lives up to its promise for employees and does not cause the anticipated burden for employers.  As always, the challenge for the government will be to strike the right balance.  We hope to provide further updates on this hot topic and provide a link to the consultation once it is live.  

In the meantime see what the papers say