Businesses criticise plans for six months’ paternity leave

BUSINESS leaders yesterday criticised new laws giving fathers the right to six months’ paternity leave.

Currently fathers get just two weeks leave after the birth of their child, but the new legislation – which is being spearheaded by deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman – effectively allows parents to divide the mother’s twelve-month maternity allowance between them.

Fathers of children born after 3 April 2011 will be entitled to a maximum of six months’ paternity leave, which can only be taken once the mother returns to work.

Some of the leave would be covered by statutory maternity pay of £123-a-week if the mother returns to work before the end of the 39-week maternity pay period.

But Stephen Alambritis of the Federation of Small businesses criticised the plans, which will become law before the general election. He said: “Small businesses will want all hands to the pump, and having one out of a workforce of four off means a quarter of your staff being out of action.”

The CBI cautiously welcomed the plans but said the government needed to avoid a “bureaucratic tangle”.