The government has announced reforms that will allow parents to share up to a year’s leave after the birth of a child and described them as “good news” for employers.
It plans to introduce the changes to flexible working in 2014 and to flexible parental leave in 2015. The flexible working proposals would extend the right to request this to all employees, which the government says would improve the UK labour market by providing more diverse working patterns.
Employers would have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner and would be able to refuse requests on business grounds.
The new parental leave arrangements would still entitle employed mothers to 52 weeks of maternity leave but working parents would be able to “mix and match” leave, taking it in turns or together, providing the leave does not total more than 52 weeks.
Mothers would have to take at least the initial two weeks of leave after birth but it would then be up to both parents to decide how they share the remaining weeks.
Announcing the plans on 13 November, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “This is good news not only for parents and parents-to-be, but employers too who will benefit from a much more flexible and motivated workforce.”
Katja Hall, chief policy director at business lobbying organisation the CBI, said: “Flexible parental leave is a good way to support working families and businesses realise that this is good for retaining talent.”
But she added: “We must ensure the new system is simple to administer. Companies support the right of all staff to request flexible working, but they must be able to decide each case on its merits, as it may not be practical for all firms.”