Clegg outlines plan to allow shared parental leave

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

LONDON - Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has unveiled plans to allow parents to share parental leave between them, evoking angry reactions from some business leaders.

Fathers will be given up to ten months of paid paternity leave under plans outlined Monday by Clegg, the Daily Mail reported.

With backing from British Prime Minister David Cameron, Clegg condemned “Edwardian” attitudes to childcare and traditional family roles.

His plans, which business leaders last night described as a “complete nightmare”, go even further than those championed under Labour by Harriet Harman.

Parents will be allowed to divide between them almost all of the existing 12 months of maternity leave, the report said.

They may even be able to split the time off into stretches as short as a few weeks.

The proposal has been a key coalition demand for Clegg, who has often spoken of his wish to be a hands-on father to his three children.

He claimed it is “madness” to deny men the chance to stay at home and look after their children while mothers go back to work.

At present, women are entitled to six weeks of maternity leave on 90 percent pay, followed by 33 weeks on statutory maternity pay of 125 pounds a week.

In total, they can remain off work for up to a year. Men are allowed two weeks of paternity leave, on statutory pay.

Andrew Cave, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “This is the wrong measure at the wrong time.

“The government says it wants businesses to take on more staff but this sort of thing just throws up more obstacles. Maternity leave is already the most complex aspect of employment law for many businesses and this risks making it a complete nightmare.”

The new paternity laws could see new fathers entitled to ten months of paid paternity leave.

Adam Marshall of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the proposals could prevent employers from taking on staff.

“This may be politically popular but it is going to cause great difficulties for many small and medium sized businesses,” he said. “You have to question how this squares with all the business-friendly rhetoric coming out of the government.”

In his speech Clegg paid tribute to Harman for pushing through measures due to come into force in April, which will allow parents to share up to six months of paid leave following the birth of a child.

But he argued that the system is so outdated that change must go further.

He said: “These rules patronise women and marginalise men. They’re based on a view of life in which mothers stay at home and fathers are the only breadwinners.

“That’s an Edwardian system that has no place in 21st century Britain.”

“Children suffer, too often missing out on time with their fathers. And men suffer too.

“More and more fathers want to play a hands-on role with their young children. But too many feel that they can’t.

“It’s madness that we are denying them that chance.” Unlike most families, Clegg’s wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, a lawyer, is the main breadwinner.

But Clegg insisted the new plans should not just be the preserve of the wealthy.

Under the proposals, only the first few weeks of maternity leave would remain exclusively for the use of women.

After a short period, perhaps two months, parents would be able to divide up the remaining ten months as they like. This could include allowing both parents to be off at the same time.

To allow time for consultation, the proposals will not be introduced until 2015.

Filed under: Economy

will not be displayed