Big changes could be on the way for Britain’s working parents: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has unveiled plans which would allow both mothers and fathers to share up to a year’s leave after the birth of a child from 2015.
Parents will be able to alternate the leave between them or even take time off at the same time. However, only nine months of the twelve will be on guaranteed pay.
Adoptive parents will also be eligible for flexible leave under the plans. Currently they are only eligible for maternity or paternity leave if they have worked in their current job for six months or more, but the new measures will make them eligible from day one.
The plans form part of a package of proposals which allow all employees to request flexible working hours. They will be able to ask for reduced hours, flexitime arrangements or the option to work at home. Under current legislation only parents and carers have the legal right to make such requests. The universal right to make such requests will, hope the government, lessen the stigma attached to flexible working, encourage recent mothers back into the workplace and also allow grandparents to help with childcare.
Explaining the plans, the Liberal Democrat leader said:
“Right now, parents and some carers can ask for more flexible working patterns — compressed hours, flexitime, working from home, that kind of thing. But people don’t always take advantage of it. There can still be stigma attached – especially for fathers.”
“But giving everyone this new right will help drive a culture shift in the workplace. And it will be possible for other relatives, grandparents and even close family friends to change the way they work in order to help with child care.”
Businesses should not resist the plans, he insisted, saying they will benefit by retaining their best staff.
Existing rules on working rights are outdated, added the Deputy Prime Minister. The new plans mean “sweeping away the clapped-out rules that make no sense for modern families in a modern economy. Today’s households aren’t all comprised of one breadwinner and one homemaker – mum in the kitchen, dad in the office…. with today’s announcement we’re yanking these rules into the 21st century.”
Mr Clegg had planned to give fathers six week paid paternity leave, in contrast to the two they current receive, but admitted he had been forced to drop the idea due to economic circumstances. He hopes, however, to revive the plan at a later date.
The plans will become legislation next year.