Big changes on parental leave

New Government plans will see an overhaul of the regulations governing parental leave following the birth of a baby.

At the moment, mothers are allowed six weeks of maternity leave at 90 per cent of their earnings. They can then take another 33 weeks off work at the statutory maternity leave pay of £128.73 a week. If they so choose, they can add another three months of unpaid leave. Fathers, on the other hand, can take two weeks of paid leave. Since April, men have been allowed to assume home care responsibilities for six months of any unused maternity leave should the mother opt to return to work after the baby is 20 weeks old. But that leave can only be taken as a single block.

The new plans mean that the mother will be entitled to 18 weeks of paid maternity leave following the birth of the baby. However, a subsequent 30 weeks’ leave, of which 17 weeks would be paid, can then be divided between the two parents and, if it is requested, the leave could be segmented into blocks of weeks and months. What’s more, both parents will be granted an extra four weeks of paid parental leave, taking the father’s automatic entitlement to six weeks in total.

Commenting on the planned changes, which are due to come into effect in 2015 but first go out to consultation, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, emphasised that the Government has been mindful of minimising the costs and bureaucracy to business. As a result, employers will still be able to take into account their needs when agreeing how leave can be taken.

Business groups, though, expressed anxieties over the impact of the changes, particularly in the case of smaller employers. John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “For a small firm, organising cover and workloads for a member of staff that has decided to take chunks of parental leave from work – not a continuous period of time – will be extremely burdensome and difficult to administer.”

The consultation can be found at http://discuss.bis.gov.uk/modernworkplaces/