Parental leave

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Newborn and midwife

17 / 1 / 2011 1.59pm

The Department for Business launched a consultation which explored proposals for the design of a more flexible system of parental leave.

The consultation considered how best to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.

The Coalition Government's programme for government states that:


"We will extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, consulting with business on how best to do so.

We will encourage shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy – including the promotion of a system of flexible parental leave.

We will review employment and workplace laws, for employers and employees, to ensure they maximise flexibility for both parties while protecting fairness and providing the competitive environment required for enterprise to thrive.”

The new consultation was announced by the Deputy Prime Minister on 17 January 2011 and a full version of the speech can be obtained from the Cabinet Office website.

Further details of the proposed consultation can be found on the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills website. 

The speech set out principles that the Government wants the changes to embody:

  • Any new arrangement must absolutely maintain women's guaranteed right to time off in the first months after birth, paid as it is now; and must protect the rights of lone mothers.
  • The reforms must transform the opportunities for fathers to take time off to care for their children.
  • It must be possible for mother and fathers to share part of their leave, splitting it between them, in whatever way suits them best.
  • The new system must take into account the needs of employers and it must be simple to administer.
  • Employed mothers currently receive a long period of maternity leave and pay (52 weeks leave, 39 weeks pay). Employed fathers receive much less (two paid weeks). This system is inflexible and does not support shared parenting.
  • As an interim measure the Additional Paternity Leave regulations agreed by the last Government will remain in force.
  • The Government believes these changes are a small step in the right direction, but do not go far enough. The regulations were passed in April 2010 and cover parents of children due on or after 3 April 2011. Additional Paternity leave will give employed fathers a right to up to six months extra leave which can be taken once the mother has returned to work after 20 weeks. Some of the leave may be paid if taken during the mother’s maternity pay period. This is paid at 90 per cent of earnings up to the same standard rate as Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) which is currently £124.88 per week (rising to £128.73 from April). 

Government consultation on modern workplaces 

Read information regarding the Government's consultation on modern workplaces together with our key findings and conclusions submitted on the consultation.

Further information

Our flexible workforce pages provide more information on different types of flexible working arrangements, including our flexible working A to Z.

Direct Gov also has a comprehensive explanation of parents rights in the workplace.

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