NEW FATHERS will have the right to share 50 weeks of parental leave from April 2015, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg announced today.
The changes will allow working parents to share leave and statutory pay in a move that the government hopes will rebalance childcare roles and help businesses retain female talent.
Employers must grant paternity leave, but they can negotiate with employees on how time off is split, and can also insist that it is taken in one block.
Employees will have to give their employer eight weeks’ notice of their intention to take shared leave.
The government detailed the changes in a response to its consultation on shared parental leave, with changes to flexible working policy among the announcements.
Clegg made it clear that employers should welcome the changes, that he claims will be “good for our economy”.
“We need to challenge the old-fashioned assumption that women will always be the parent that stays at home – many fathers want that option too,” said Clegg.
The policy has been largely welcomed, although the Institute of Directors raised concerns about its complexity and the impact on smaller employers.
Deputy director of policy Alexander Ehmann called the scheme “a nightmare for small businesses,” adding: “Today’s announcements heap yet more burdens on struggling employers at a time when government should be freeing them to create jobs and wealth.”
Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment, voiced her support but warned: “Time will tell if men do take up paternity leave, what we need is a high profile senior man to do it – to get people thinking you can still have a good career.”
Ministers said they would review the take-up of the shared leave, and will consider extending the current two week paid paternity leave once the economy is in a stronger position.
■ Expectant dads will also get the right to unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments.
■ Eligible mothers and fathers will be entitled to shared parental leave of up to 50 weeks.
■ Parents can request their desired leave pattern in any configuration, but this must be agreed with their employer.
■ All employees with 26 weeks continuous service with their employer will have the right to request flexible working.