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UK plans for parents to share maternity leave

Nick Clegg says the UK’s current system is ‘Edwardian’ – and introduces a new regime that lets fathers share the time off.

Nick Clegg kisses the forehead of his newborn son, Miguel, in February 2009.
Nick Clegg kisses the forehead of his newborn son, Miguel, in February 2009.
Image: Jeff Moore/Empics

PARENTS IN THE UK will be able to share in their mother’s entitlements for maternity leave, under a new system to be unveiled by Nick Clegg in the coming months.

The new system, which would replace the current formula of allowing parents just two weeks of paternity leave, allow fathers to take up any remaining unpaid leave given up by a child’s mother.

Announcing the new plans – which were originally tabled by the previous Labour government – Describing the current system as ‘Edwardian’ and its two-week allowance for new fathers as “paltry”, the FT reports that Clegg said men needed “to be actively encouraged to take time off”.

In addition to their ability to share in a mother’s leave entitlements, fathers could also be offered extra leave allowance in “use it or lose it” blocks which cannot be transferred back to a mother.

The new system would put an end to rules that “patronise women and marginalise men”, Clegg said.

Business lawyers have warned that the plans may be difficult to enact, however, with the Federation of Small Businesses saying the new rules would add to the already-thorny area of maternity leave.

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“It’s yet another disincentive to take on staff,” spokesman Andrew Cave said. “On the one hand the government is claiming to simplify employment law, while on the other it is throwing up more obstacles to job creation.”

Other firms said it would be almost impossible for firms to plan for staff taking time off in small chunks with little notice. The new rules are to be adopted in April.

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Gavan Reilly

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