The government has recently announced proposals to extend the scope of parental leave. This will enable eligible mothers and their partners to share up to 52 weeks of leave to care for newborn children. Up the 39 weeks of parental leave will be paid, similar to the current maternity leave and pay provisions. Mothers will still be required to take compulsory maternity leave, but the remaining leave can be determined between the parents and it will be possible for couples to take the leave together.

It is likely that such plans will be welcomed by families, and in particular fathers, who will be given greater opportunity to be involved in caring for children from the beginning. It will also be a welcome introduction for those couples where the woman is the higher earner, as her partner will now be able to take paid leave to care for a new baby, and she can return to work.

However, critics of the current proposals have noted that the current rate of pay for statutory parental leave may mean that people are deterred from taking advantage of the scheme. The TUC believe that the government should have also taken this opportunity to ensure that parents have the right to return to their previous role even if they are off work for more than six months. In failing to address this factor people may be dissuaded from using the full parental leave period.

From an employer’s point of view such proposals are likely to create confusion and make covering parental leave difficult, as under the current proposals the leave can be broken up between the parties and need not be taken continuously.

It is still unclear exactly what guise the new parental leave provisions will take, but it is anticipated that the proposals will be introduced by the government in 2015.

Beecham Peacock Solicitors in Newcastle can advise on Employment Law issues, call us on 0191 2323048.

Anna Hawksworth

Employment Paralegal

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