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UK Maternity leave: Parental leave to have maximum flexibility

Published by Maria Bell
Published on 13 November 2012

Parental leave in the UK is set to get a massive shake-up by 2015 with new Government plans announced today allowing parents "maximum flexibility" to share up to a year's parental leave to look after their new born children.

UK Maternity leave: Parental leave to have maximum flexibility by 2015

flexible parenting leave Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will today announce that the "clapped out" policies around parental leave are in need of a radical overhaul to allow working women a real choice in the work-life/ home-life balance and realistic route back into work.

The focus of these new reforms, he will say, are set to bring some equality back into the equation making sure that women are not presented with the choice of strictly "motherhood or work".

These new reforms will mean that new mothers will still be able to take the fifty two weeks of maternity leave, but after the first two weeks (which is reserved only for women), they will be able to pick and choose to start to share the time-off with their partners.

The only restrictions of the new policy are that no more than fifty two weeks can be taken and only 9 months at guaranteed pay. As well as giving employers proper notice of plans.

At the moment the situation in the UK allows parents to split some of the fifty two weeks of maternity leave but only after 5 months and with fathers only getting 2 weeks statutory paternity leave.

The current policies, Clegg suggests are fatally flawed and these combined with current childcare policies put significant strain on the life of both parents prompting this disparaging attack, as The Guardian reports:

"The problem comes down to a whole range of clapped-out rules and arrangements. Whether that's the balance between maternity and paternity leave; or the childcare that's available; or the way our tax and welfare systems don't fully reward part-time work.

Arrangements which assume that families are still comprised of one bread winner and one homemaker; mum in the kitchen; dad in the office. Even though the reality is that, in many families, both parents work, often juggling busy lives, often working part-time, often without relatives or friends close by who can help out."

With countries like Sweden and Norway already leading the way with policies focusing around the equal sharing of parental leave since the 1970s, these reforms are nothing out of the ordinary. But this should be one of the first steps in realising a more equal system in the UK.
Despite these new reforms, the Deputy PM has side-lined any plans to extend paternity leave in addition to the total time that parents will have due to concerns from MP's on the state of businesses. However there are steps that will give fathers the right to attend to two antenatal classes - though this will be unpaid.

The plans are set to come into place in 2015 to not only kick start the economy but to try to close the gap in equalising the whole culture that we live in, as well as the welfare system, childcare system and economic make-up of our businesses.

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