The UK deputy prime-minister, Nick Clegg has announced that the UK will move to a new system of flexible parental leave. From 2015, a fully flexible system of parental leave in England, Scotland and Wales will give women a clearer "route back" to work, ministers have said.
In the new system, mothers will be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave, but having taken the first two weeks after the birth of their child, the rest can be shared with the partner taking some, or both parents taking some together. 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 announced.
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, in different blocks, 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
Mr Clegg also said that the government will extend the legal right to request flexible working to all employers.
“Millions of parents already enjoy the right to request flexible working - such as changing shifts, varying start and finish times, working from home or shifting to part-time hours. We must ensure that the new system is simple to administer, and does not give rise to legal action from fathers seeking parental rights that mirror those available to mothers”
At the moment in the UK, parents with children up to the age of 16, or parents with disabled children up to 18, can request flexible working patterns as long as they have at least 26 weeks of service. Employers must seriously consider such a request, although they are within their rights to turn it down for sound business reasons.
If you would like to find out more about how you can prepare for these changes, download our comprehensive guide on Introducing Flexible working into your organisation
The combined measures, he claimed, will give parents "more options" and professional women a "real choice" about how they balance their careers and family responsibilities while respecting couples who want more "traditional arrangements".