A Year of Shared Leave for New Parents from April

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The Government has proposed to introduce shared leave for parents after the birth of their child.

Current maternity leave is 52 weeks, but from April it will be possible to split this leave – excluding the first two weeks of the mother’s recovery – between parents. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg claims that this set up will give mothers the chance to continue their careers and allow fathers to be ‘more hands-on parents’. Anybody deciding to take the total annual leave of six months will retain their legal rights to return to their job.

However the Institute of Directors have labelled these new rights as a ‘nightmare’ that would ‘heap yet more burdens on struggling employers.’ Alexander Ehmann, deputy director of policy said that ‘The proposed system is considerably more complex and unwieldy than the current laws and employers will – once again – have to absorb the cost of adapting and implementing this new system.’

In the hope of dispelling fears for small businesses, employers will have to agree the proposed pattern of time off before an agreement is made and they continue to retain the right to demand it be taken in one continuous block.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary said that the step was ‘welcome’ but would be unaffordable ‘unless it is backed up with better pay’.