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Flexible parenting leave - and new paternity leave arrangements

More flexibility and shared leave by 2015

We reported about this time last year on the last government’s proposals for additional paternity leave of up to 26 weeks, if the mother returns to work before the end of her maternity leave. These will come into force in the UK April this year.

The coalition government says it wants to go further, and introduce a more flexible system of shared parental leave. This should be brought in in 2015, after detailed consultation with parents and businesses.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg:

“We know that men need to be actively encouraged to take time off. And often parents want more flexibility than these arrangements will allow. So in the coming weeks we will be launching a consultation on a new properly flexible system of shared parental leave, that we aim to introduce in 2015. I would have liked it to be sooner. But getting this right will take time.

“The options we are working through will have massive consequences for parents up and down the country, and they have to be considered carefully. It would be wholly irresponsible to rush these changes. And, at a time of continued economic uncertainty, we cannot just spring them on employers.

“We need to work with business to make absolutely sure that, from their point of view, the new system is sustainable and affordable. And that, ultimately, leaves British companies benefitting from a happier, more productive workforce.”

“We want to create an environment that encourages parents and their employers to discuss leave plans openly and constructively. And we want to help businesses keep the staff that they have invested in.”

Mr Clegg was speaking at the launch of a report by think-tank Demos The Home Front, on policy for parenting.  He confirmed that the arrangements of the last government for new rules for paternity leave would go ahead this April, despite calls from some quarters to delay them.  And he announced that new proposals would be coming forward to create a more flexible and equal system of leave for parents.

The proposals have not been worked through yet, but Mr Clegg put forward four key principles that would underpin them:

  1. Any new arrangement must absolutely maintain women's guaranteed right to time off in the first months after birth, paid as it is now; and protect the rights of lone mothers.
  2. The reforms must transform the opportunities for fathers to take time off to care for their children.
  3. It must be possible for mother and fathers to share part of their leave, splitting it between them, in whatever way suits them best.
  4. The new system must take into account the needs of employers and it must be simple to administer

Ideas in the melting pot include different options for sharing the overall allowance after the first few weeks between both parents, including being able to take it in a number of chunks rather than in a single block.  And the government is exploring options to encourage men to take more leave: for example, through use-it-or-lose it blocks of time, especially reserved for fathers.

We look forward to seeing these proposals, and how they interface with wider provision of flexible work.

January 2011


New paternity leave arrangements are coming in in April this year.  And now, to the dismay of some of the employers' organisations, further changes are being proposed to come in for 2015.

But here at Flexibility we think the government is right to address the parenting deficit by tackling the interface between home and work, and we look forward to more flexible solutions on the lines announced.

“I want to make clear that these reforms are a priority of mine, and of the Prime Minister's.”
- Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg











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