The Government has announced detail of its plans for a new system of flexible parental leave to help parents balance work and family commitments.
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The coalition agreement included a commitment to "encouraging shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy - including the promotion of a system of parental leave." In following this up, the Government will be launching a consultation on a new flexible system of shared parental leave that should be introduced in 2015. The consultation will consider how best to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.
Employed mothers currently receive a long period of maternity leave and pay (52 weeks leave, 39 weeks pay). Employed fathers receive two paid weeks. An interim, and linked, measure of Additional Paternity Leave regulations agreed by the last Government will remain in force. This means that regulations passed in April 2010 will cover parents of children due on or after 3 April 2011.
Under the regulations, Additional Paternity leave will give employed fathers a right to 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. This is paid at 90% of earnings up to the same standard rate as Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) which is currently £124.88 per week (rising to £128.73 from April).
The interesting twist will be for employers to know when one of the parents has gone back to work so that the other can take leave. Big brother or big bother?