Flexible parental leave – what does it mean for you and your family?

Maternity and paternity leave is set to change, as the Government announces proposals to allow new parents to share paid time off with their baby. Here’s what it actually means

What changes will the proposals bring in?Dads are being encouraged to spend more time with their babies in the first year

Currently maternity law states that women can take up to a year off when they have a baby. Called Statutory Maternity Leave, it entitles all women to the 52 weeks, regardless of how long they have been working for their employer.

Since April 2011, dads have been able to take up to six months of that time off, when their partner goes back to work. This has to be taken in a single block, after their baby has reached 20 weeks.

The new proposal will allow mums and dads to share parental leave more flexibly. Dads will be able to take time off at any point after the compulsory two week period that mums take following birth. They will also be able to take time off in chunks as well as choosing to alternate or coordinate leave with their partner.
Flexible working

The changes also offer more rights to workers to ask for flexible hours, regardless of whether they are parents. Adoptive parents also gain the same rights as their biological counterparts and expectant fathers will be able to claim unpaid leave in order to attend antenatal appointments.Mums and dads will be able to take time off at the same time to bond as a family

Are there any limits?

The total amount of time taken off between parents can only add up to one year, with only nine months of that at guaranteed pay. Automatic paternity leave will remain at two weeks, but flexible leave can be activated by the mum at any time after this.

When does the new system start?

The law is due to come into effect in 2015, though an exact date is yet to be set. To reduce the impact on businesses in the difficult economy, a planned review of paternity leave has been postponed until 2018.

Is there criticism?

Some businesses have complained that flexible working isn’t compatible with a weak economy and difficult trading conditions. But the Government and the Trade Union Congress have insisted that the economy will benefit from giving workers and particularly parents a better work/life balance.

Would you share your maternity leave?