Earlier this month, the government announced a new bill, hoping to change the way new mothers and fathers can take time off from work after a birth. The Children and Families Bill was published on the 5th February 2013, and promises a big shake up of special needs help, adoption and parental leave laws.
Calling the old rules “old fashioned and rigid,” the Bill will allow new parents to “mix and match” how they care for their new born child for the first year of life, enabling them to work alternate months for the first twelve.
How the Children and Families Bill Works
Families will be entitled to up to a year of leave under the new Bill, in an effort to encourage fathers to take a bigger role in the raising of children. It will add up to 52 weeks of joint leave, which the parents will be able to take at the same time (which would last 26 weeks) or taking it in turns if they so wished.
Ministers hope that the Bill will help to modernise the rules of the workplace, giving new fathers a greater chance to spend time with their children and allowing new mothers to return to work earlier, thus dispelling the perception that staying at home with the children is a woman’s role and bringing greater equality to the workplace.
The Ups and Downs
Obviously, any step towards equality is a step forward, but some critics are warning that the new Bill risks creating a nightmare of organisation for many employers, as they will not be able to say no to any requests for time off. The alternating months, in particular, is cited as the biggest problem to employers.
However, some people believe this point to be a moot one, as instead of losing a male member of the workforce, companies will benefit from not losing a valuable female employee. If a mother is very business minded and driven, whereas the father is more family oriented, what good is there in making the woman take all the time off instead of the man?
For in depth advice on the current law surrounding maternity leave and statutory maternity pay, you would be better off visiting the Employment Advice Now website or the official government webpage concerning it, but here is a basic outlining.
Currently, maternity leave can last up to 52 weeks. A new mother does not have to take the whole year, but there is a two week minimum of statutory maternity leave, which rises to four if you work in a factory.
There is currently only two weeks’ worth of statutory paternity leave, but this can be increased to 26 weeks of additional leave.
The new Bill would usher in a law where both parents can take off up to 26 weeks each or choose to split it between them unevenly to a maximum of 52 weeks.
The parent to take the first six weeks will receive 90% of their typical earnings, and the last 13 weeks are unpaid – the middle 33 will garner a minimum of £135.45 a week.