Government announces parental leave reform

Parents will be able to share up to a year's parental leave under plans announced by the Government that will 'revolutionise' lives at home and work. 

Under the reform, mothers will continue to receive their entitlement to 52 weeks of maternity leave, but parents will have greater flexibility to 'mix and match' this period.

Mothers will be able to take a recovery period of the first two weeks after birth, but then decide on whether to return to work, take time off together or share the remaining year's leave. At present, fathers are entitled to two weeks of statutory paternity leave.

Nick Clegg said: "The changes will allow fathers to play a greater role in raising their child, help mothers to return to work at a time that's right for them, and create more flexible workplaces to boost the economy."

It is hoped that more women will be retained in the workplace and face less of a 'career penalty' for taking an extensive period of time off. According to the deputy prime minister, employers will also benefit from a more flexible and motivated workforce, but business groups are sceptical.

Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said the Government's proposals risked sparking friction between parents and employers, 'raising unrealistic expectations about the level of flexibility most businesses will be able to accommodate.'

Minister for employment relations, Jo Swinson, said that current arrangements were old-fashioned, inflexible and gender-biased.

"People should have the right to choose how they balance their work and family commitments," she said.

It is expected that parents will be required to provide a self-certified notice for flexible leave entitlement, eight weeks prior to when they intend to take it.

Elsewhere, additional proposals will see the right to request flexible working extended to all employees including grandparents wanting to take time off to care for grandchildren.

The Government plans to introduce the changes to flexible working by 2014 and to flexible parental leave by 2015.