Nick Clegg announces changes to parental leave today - What do you think?

(155 Posts)
JaneGMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 09:41:33


Justine has been asked to comment on Sky News and BBC News about the changes to parental leave announced today by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg:

The changes include:

- Parents will be able to share parental leave - so after the mother takes the initial two weeks after the birth, parents will be able to divide up the remaining 50 weeks between them as they wish.

- Fathers will gain a new right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments.

- Paternity leave will remain at two weeks, to be reviewed in 2018.

- The Government will legislate to extend the Right to Request Flexible working to all employees, not just parents. So, for example, grandparents could apply for flexible working to help care for their grandchildren.

What do you think? We'd really value your views on these changes.

Many thanks,


armedtotheteeth Tue 13-Nov-12 10:11:01

I think the best part is that parents will be able to take their leave both at the same time if they wish - so for example they could both have month off together initially then decide who would take the remaining 10 months. This means that women who want or need extra support (particularly mothers of twins, women with a history of post-natal depression, etc) can have it.

TheMysteryCat Tue 13-Nov-12 10:23:01

Universal rights to flexible working is a very good idea. The way we work and where we work has changed so much that this would be reasonable. It is still very much the employers' right refuse, which is fine.

In combination with shared mat/pat leave, this will hopefully reduce the stigma for mothers.

I am concerned though about the impact on breast feeding. Our bf rates are already shocking and there's nothing in here to protect or promote bf.

Paternity leave is far too short. This needs addressing.

TheBlackShiksa Tue 13-Nov-12 10:23:49

But it all depends on whether you're working or not - so if you were unemployed your partner gets no paternity rights. And thats assuming your partner is male- what about same sex couples? No clarity on that- this is a dud proposal masquerading as progress.

I can sort of see why they've left paternity leave at 2 weeks as it compares with the 2 weeks mothers have to take, then they can divvy up the remainder of the leave. However, I personally was in no fit state to do anything after the first 2 weeks and IME the 3rd and 4th weeks are the hardest. I would like to see paternity leave extended to 6 weeks, so that the entire newborn stage is covered.

Unpaid leave for 2 antenatal appointments? Well, that'll be the two scans I guess. My DH came to those anyway, using annual leave. So under this legislation he could use that right for those scans. Except that even in my two very normal pregnancies, both times I was very fat and tired at the end and didn't like to drive. I had sweeps with both of my DCs which left me feeling very uncomfortable and with DD who was born in July I was prone to feeling very faint and woozy in the heat with my low bp. So DH took time off in the last few weeks to drive me to my appointments and sweeps, therefore this would not be enough. I can imagine for parents with high risk pregnancies the desire for her to want some support and for him to be involved would be much greater and again 2 appointments would not be enough.

I do very much like the parental leave changing so that it becomes more shared, though. As for the rest, its a good start but IMO more needs to follow.

GreenMonkies Tue 13-Nov-12 10:44:44

Yes, brilliant. Because we all know how fit for work you are two weeks post-partum, and men are so brilliant at lactating...... Oh wait, no.

I am shock at anyone even suggesting returning to work 14 days after giving birth, your body isn't healed for a good 4-8 weeks, and to suggest it is to make it sound like we should be able to do it, like it's a desirable thing. For a govt that's claiming to support breastfeeding and promoting increases in breastfeeding rates this shoots it in the foot. Sharing parental leave yes, nice idea, but lots of this proposal is seriously flawed and needs a big rethink.

StuntNun Tue 13-Nov-12 10:45:08

In general a good move, in that a reform of parental leave is required, particularly when you compare the UK to other countries (obviously not the US of course). As they stand however, the proposed changes will result in women being forced back to work only two weeks after giving birth which is completely unacceptable. The mother may not be physically able to return to work but may feel she has to, for example in a small company, and childcare for a two-week-old baby will be hard to find.

Tee2072 Tue 13-Nov-12 10:49:25

It's crap unless they are going to raise the amount you get paid by the State while on leave.

There is no way we could survive without my husband's full income as opposed to surviving without mine when I went on leave. Like it or not, in most houses men make more money and so dropping them down to, what? £500 a month? Whatever it is does not make it possible for men to take Leave.

Sorry. But it doesn't.

It also doesn't affect me as I'm done having children. But I think this whole thing is just lip service to equal rights.

MiauMau Tue 13-Nov-12 10:51:28

Where we work, they gave DP those two days as paid leave, it's not like it is the whole day anyway

dreamingofsun Tue 13-Nov-12 10:53:44

should reduce the bias against women of childbearing age maybe and make companies more flexible if they have to allow men leave etc as well.

In reality would make absolutely no difference to us as husband has his own company and couldn't afford to take time off. well obviously for the birth and a few days after, but thats all.

TinkerTills Tue 13-Nov-12 10:54:07

I really hope this happens, parental leave needs reforming.

The two week rule already exists and has the delightful name of "confinement"!! Its illegal for a woman to return to work before this confinement period. I don't think anyone is suggesting that a woman should return to work at 2 weeks (although some HAVE to for finances - single parents, self-employed etc).

I shouted at Breakfast news this morning when an email was read out from a "small business owner" who complained that this will cripple them. Grrr, only if you're entire workforce is male??? And i am highly suspicious of any workforce that is entirely male - even in typically male areas there are usually woman. I mean, who makes them tea and answers phones ;-) Several friends of mine who own small businesses have openly admitted that they do not interview/ recruit women due to the maternity leave problem... as far as I am concerned Nick Clegg's announcements therefore deals with two HUGE inequalities women still face: small employers will have to stop discriminating at interview and women can return to work and have the father (or other parent) look after the baby.

PseudoBadger Tue 13-Nov-12 10:54:57

I hope that women won't feel pressured to return after two weeks by some employers.

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 10:55:37

Hang on, women can return to work 2 weeks postpartum already. That's the minimum you currently have to take.

So it's a complete red herring that this will force women back then. It doesn't seem to currently (I don't know of anyone except ultra high flying professionals a la Xenia who has done this), so the only difference is that your dp could care for the baby rather than other childcare, if that's what you want to do.

I think it's great. Currently women who have to return to work early for financial reasons, or want to return to work, have to find childcare for their babies. This lets the other parent take on the primary carer role. It makes perfect sense to me.

Most of the people who will be affected by this change would have been returning anyway and putting their child into childcare, so I don't think the bf issue actually applies. The status quo doesn't encourage women to bf for six months - many women can't afford to stay at home on SMP that long.

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 10:58:53

And many women in this country earn more than their partners. With less of a presumption that women will stay at home with their children this may increase.

I get that it's no use if your partner is a much higher earner, but equally the status quo left many families where the female partner was the much higher earner with very few choices about taking leave at all.

MrsStark Tue 13-Nov-12 10:59:43

I can see it being a terrifying prospect for small/medium who employ. I was speaking to a guy who was recruiting recently, the fact was that he simply couldn't afford for one of their employees to go on maternity leave (he would very much like to be in a position to afford it). He said at the moment it would probably be too much and send them under.

On the other hand, I think that business should move to operate on a more flexible basis, the work ethic in this country is so family un-friendly IMO.

MrsStark Tue 13-Nov-12 11:00:43

...small/medium business owners who employ even!

thereonthestair Tue 13-Nov-12 11:06:54

I think it's a good idea but there are a few flaws in it, for example my DH could never do this despite his being employed, because I am self employed. I earn more but these rights do nothing for us because of my self employed status.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Tue 13-Nov-12 11:12:31

I think unequal earnings between partners is a bit of a red herring. This is not a measure aimed at equalizing earnings - nor should it be. It just opens the door to a greater number of arrangements. Long overdue.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Tue 13-Nov-12 11:14:56

Oh, and it really shouldn't be any sort of additional problem for small businesses. If a small business owner can't work out that splitting the same amount of leave between two people rather than allotting it all to one person leaves them in a net same position as they are in now, they probably shouldn't be running a business at all.

It may potentially leave SMEs who've deliberately discriminated against women in their recruitment up the swanny, but frankly that's quite funny.

Lottapianos Tue 13-Nov-12 11:18:37

A surprising number of people seem to see pregnancy and maternity leave as a gross self-indulgence and seem to imagine that the whole of ML is spent lounging around on cushions, having manicures and eating peeled grapes. I think the only thing that will change that perception is if/when men start to take similar amounts of parental leave to women - parenting would be more likely to be seen as a normal part of life and a perfectly reasonable thing to do, rather than an aberration. Hopefully their would be a cultural change as people would find it harder to put all the responsibility for childcare on women. And employers who discriminate against women of 'child bearing age' (ugh) would have to think twice. I hope it will make the workplace fairer for all.

mumzy Tue 13-Nov-12 11:22:28

How is this to be funded. Even in my area of the public sector Existing staff are now having to cover maternity leave rather than paying someone to provide cover. I see it as another one of the lib dems pie in the sky promises like the no tuition fees debacle. When will he ever learn!

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Tue 13-Nov-12 11:26:26

The announcement is that it's happening from 2015, mumzy. They're in government, it's not really the same thing as a "promise". It's an announcement.

I can't see Labour abandoning it if they get back in in 2015, by the way, in fact I think they readily came into line with the idea when it was first mooted a few years ago.

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 11:28:39

Mumzy - it's the same amount of leave as before. It's just (potentially) being shared between two people.

If the mother returns to work at 6 weeks then she will be back in her job. If the father then takes leave from 6 weeks to a year then he'll be away from his job. No different than if the mother had take a full year's leave.

I guess you could see a higher number of couples being able to utilise the year's leave available to them by law. But it's always been a possibility for an employer that a pregnant employee will take a year's leave and they have to, even under the current legislation, plan accordingly.

This spreads the risk a bit for employers with predominantly female workforces. E.g my public sector employer will see me back at work 6 months earlier than they would have done before parental leave could be shared. My husband's private sector employee will lose him for 6 months, swings and roundabouts.

bealos Tue 13-Nov-12 11:28:49

This is RUBBISH. "Paternity leave will remain at two weeks, to be reviewed in 2018." Reviewed in 2018??!! All this tosh about equal rights. Government not really doing as they say.

And I can't believe this isn't a right already. Gasp. "Fathers will gain a new right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments."

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 11:28:58

private sector employer..

EuroShagmore Tue 13-Nov-12 11:32:12

Being able to share leave would be a huge step forward for equality. Perhaps in future there might be less prejudice against hiring women of childbearing age if men have equal rights to leave (and as more women become the higher earner in a couple, more men will be likely to use it).

somuchforanindiansummer Tue 13-Nov-12 11:39:59

Yes yes yes to proper flexibility in sharing parental leave. I am pregnant and looked into sharing leave with my partner, but found it really unhelpful that I have to take 20 weeks before he can take any at all. So v pleased it is changing (although not in time for our situ sadly)

TremoloGreen Tue 13-Nov-12 11:56:47

I agree that the move toward shared leave is a huge step forward. The main obstacle to this being implemented however, is the attitude of employers. When I have discussed this with male and female friends, most of the men suggested that their employer would see them taking parental leave "differently" to the allowances they would make for a female employee. Measures to tackle these attitudes (for example, perks for companies who subscribe to Investors in People style schemes which promote uptake of shared leave) would make the legislation more comprehensive.

As for protecting breastfeeding, I think this is a personal choice and shouldn't be dictated by the government. Couples (or women) who chose to breastfeed for an extended period will obviously make and prioritise this choice and arrange their leave accordingly. Perhaps not everyone will have the luxury of choosing this however (where the females partner's salary outstrips the male partner's) and these couples should not have choices taken away form them.

I don't understand exactly how this works if one partner is unemployed. If a woman was unemployed at the time of her baby's birth, would her (employed) partner be entitled to any eave through his own employer? Or is leave sharing dependent on the woman being entitled to SML (as I think is the case at the moment)?

minimuffin Tue 13-Nov-12 12:00:59

This is a bit like the Scandinavian countries and I think it's good. You're never going to be able to legislate to make everyone's lives easier at a stroke, but this means that a) in cases where the woman is employed and is the major breadwinner, she can go back to work at whatever point suits and her partner can take over the childcare until paid childcare kicks in and b) in households where earnings are on a par it makes it possible for both parents to share the care. It has got to be a good thing, surely, for society to allow more men to care for their children. The immediate burden falls on women by default - this will go some way to alleviating it won't it? Not sure it will affect breastfeeding rates - women who want to do it will do what they always have and take time off. In fact it might be easier to go back to work whilst BF if your OH is at home as you have total support - using and storing expressed milk easier to do from home I imagine? Strongly agree with whoever made the point that for women with twins, or PND it's a godsend. Too many women are left isolated and unsupported at a really vulnerable time and this would allow dads to take some proper time off rather than the token amount given at the moment. Also, nobody has to take the entire 52 weeks, it will be a choice based on many factors, as ever.

BraveLilBear Tue 13-Nov-12 12:05:49

I am shocked that there is no current allowance for fathers (non baby carrying parent) to be able to attend antenatal appoitnments.

Having had an early mc, I see it as essential that my partner is with me for scans etc. His finding leave for this is already troubling me - he only gets 4 weeks a year!

We are also in the situation where I earn more than he does, and will have to consider him being the main carer when the time comes. So essentially, this would be a good thing.

In general though 2 weeks paternity is seriously too short. I'd echo the comment above about it being 4 weeks. And bottom line - more affordable childcare will open more doors than shared parental leave.

CelineMcBean Tue 13-Nov-12 12:13:26

I haven't been able to find the policy or full details of the announcement so I have a query but even so I think this is an extremely important and significant move forward. I think the following points are important:

• The new leave after a baby is extremely flexible. This has to be a good thing for employers who will potentially be able to share the burden of maternity leave with another employer in many instances and negotiate with the employee to take leave at mutually convenient times. Good for parents and employers.

• The new proposals free women from the presumed role of childcarer. This is very important if equality is ever to be achieved. I welcome that.

• The proposals will allow parents to make choices regarding breastfeeding. I am pleased breastfeeding rights for a child are not legislated for. Choice for families is key; those who wish to breastfeed have the same rights as before. You just decide to divide up your leave (or not!) to suit your family life. No breastfeeding woman is denied but equally no woman is defined and restricted purely on the basis of her biology. The same point goes for the first 2 weeks mandatory leave. Nobody is forcing women back to work earlier - parents can now choose to make the decision that's right for their family.

• Flexible working requests should be open to all so the stigma of flexible working and part time working can be erroded. The more flexible working is seen as the norm for everyone the better. So I welcome that and would add that many employers have allowed requests from anyone for a long time so the legistion is just catching up with good practice.

• Any mother who has already taken maternity leave is less likely to benefit from these changes because she is more likely to be paid less now (women see a drop in pay for every period of childbirth and when children start school) so statistically men are paid more and it just might not make financial sense for fathers to take leave. However, I would add that there needs to be a starting point and many women are on an equal financial footing before parenthood and this will help those women retain that financial status which has to be a good thing.

Query Do self employed fathers (or those taking the "father" role) have the same rights as self employed mothers? Current additional paternity leave regulations only give rights to employees. If not this must be changed so there really is choice and equality.

Giving more choice and rights to everyone does not take away anyone's right to take a year's maternity leave and to spend that time breastfeeding <- just in case anyone has missed that point wink

bealos Tue 13-Nov-12 12:13:31

Agree with BraveLilBear it's ALL ABOUT affordable childcare, which is something that the UK is incredibly poor at compared to other countries....

GreySquirrel Tue 13-Nov-12 12:17:15

I also think there are a lot of new families that can't afford for the father to take "unpaid" leave and so the two weeks is actually of no use at all and they instead use up their annual leave for these things.

I agree that it shouldn't make such a huge impact on small businesses - and I work in one so do know about how tricky it can be, since it does not change the overall amount but is about more flexible use of that leave. As long as the two employees are both able to negotiate a workable arrangement with their employers shorter periods should be more manageable for employers to cover (but likely to happen more often I suppose). Unfortunately not everyone is lucky enough to have employers who can/will agree to flexibility and some jobs are easier than others to accommodate.

But as others have said this presumably does not help couples where the mother is either not working or self-employed or for other reasons not entitled to maternity leave? I would hope that for same sex couples there would be a similar arrangement but have no idea.

CelineMcBean Tue 13-Nov-12 12:20:12

I am a bit confused why people are getting annoyed about paternity leave remaining at 2 weeks. For the first two weeks both parents are on leave together. Then they can share the leave as they see fit, so from what i've read, they could both take another two weeks together but would use four weeks leave. Surely that's better than what we currently have?

The only caveat is that rights for fathers (and same sex parents who are taking on the role of second parent/father) must be extended to all workers not just employees if there is to be any real choice and consequently any real equality.

<<off to read the full proposals>>

CelineMcBean Tue 13-Nov-12 12:22:48

Just to clarify women who are self employed can take 39 weeks paid maternity leave under the current legislation. We only get maternity allowance (£550 a month or so) but if we qualify and have enough NI contributions we can take paid leave.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Tue 13-Nov-12 12:23:01

I thought that too Celine and wondered if there's something I was missing. confused

I fact I think our ideal endpoint is that the whole separate concepts of "maternity" and "paternity" leave are subsumed by "parental leave" isn't it? Rather than thinking in terms of extending either one.

fatfloosie Tue 13-Nov-12 12:23:12

When I had DD in 2008 my partner got no paternity leave as he hadn't been in his job long enough. He had started in Nov and we had DD in Feb and all the annual leave he was entitled to was used up to cover the company closing down between Christmas and New Year. He was home for only two days sad

So two weeks' paternity leave regardless of how long you have been in your job would be good!

GreySquirrel Tue 13-Nov-12 12:27:41

Good that it applies to self-employed too I wasn't sure on that one. What about those not in a job very long or doing temporary work?

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 12:27:46

Fantastic. As a femal main earner just fantastic.

semirurallife Tue 13-Nov-12 12:30:17

its a really good step in the right direction, but... two quick points

1. employers MUST start offering part-time work at PROFESSIONAL levels. I have two post-grad qualifications(including a PhD) and earn a little over the minimum wage, because I wanted to see my kids grow up, so its part-time and low paid... where is the logic in that, especially as students take on more debt? Women will really be hard pressed in that financial jigsaw. I could go on...

2. some workplaces have a phenomenally macho, long-hours, greasy pole culture where men will have to be brave to ask for this. Some bosses are prepared to be human, but many are not... when our son was born, with complications, mu husband had 2 days off... yup, two days... sad He was too scared to negotiate any more, and took a phone call from work in early part of birth...

Chestnutx3 Tue 13-Nov-12 12:31:07

It is a step forward but given on radio 4 they said it was to address the fact that we are one of the countries with the lowest level of working mothers I don't think it is going to help much. Affordable childcare is the solution not shared maternity leave.

thereonthestair Tue 13-Nov-12 12:33:04

Celine yes that's right, but because the rights differ between the right to pay and to leave there are wrinkles. So in my case I am self employed. I can take leave and could get maternity allowance. I don't get SMP. As I don't get SMP my Dh couldn't get his part of the pay that he would get as an employee if he shared parental leave (whcih also I can't currently get as parental leave as that is a right for employees not workers) The benefits and tax system don't tally with the maternity and paternity rights or parental rights and this does need to be sorted out as you can't currently "share" when you have different NI classes. Also and for the sake of completeness as I am self employed (a member of an LLP) I don't get other parental rights under legislation so for example I have no continuing right to parental leave despite having a disabled son who I have to ferry to numerous medical appointments etc. My firm are fine with it all, but they don't have to be. Until they have to be this is a step in the right direction but not enough to allow really flexibility, especially with the change to working arrangements many people are seeing.

Also how is this going to tie in with Osbourne erosion of maternity rights under the "new" type of employment contract.

It needs thinking through in much more detail if progress will stop being so incremental.

GreySquirrel Tue 13-Nov-12 12:34:52

I also agree with others that have highlighted child care issues as being a bigger barrier to working mothers. Although the first year is important it is just the first year after all and there will be many more years to come trying to balance work and child care. I always thought it was wrong to have to pay out so much of your wages with no tax relief even so that for a while it is often not even worth working at all especially if you have more children.

A parent working and paying for childcare is contributing to the economy twice by creating work for child minders or nursery staff.

Oodthunkit Tue 13-Nov-12 12:37:52

What is needed is a paternity allowance for SE/men who paid NI but don't meet criteria. Dh & I would swap at about 6 months (assuming I'm fit enough ) as I earn more but he doesn't meet the criteria as he is a mix of 3 jobs and some SE.

garlicbaguette Tue 13-Nov-12 12:42:26

if/when men start to take similar amounts of parental leave to women - parenting would be more likely to be seen as a normal part of life and a perfectly reasonable thing to do

I do agree with this, and also that an equalisation of flexible hours is long overdue. It seems obvious that business owners who complain about this have been discriminating against women, so HAH!

It doesn't go far enough. But is a welcome move towards the integration of parenting with working life.

It bugs me when small businesses say that maternity leave costs them money. My Nanny is on maternity leave, and I have been able to claim the whole cost back from HMRC in advance.

mentlejen Tue 13-Nov-12 12:46:10

I welcome the flexibility for families to organise leave in the way that suits them best.

I wonder how this practically works in terms of parental leave pay packages -e.g. DH and I worked for different organisations, the maternity leave pay package was much better where he worked (6 months full pay, then SMP compared to my package of 3 months full pay, 3 months half pay, 3 months SMP). I was p/t, he was f/t when it came to my 2nd pregnancy and birth. How will employers/households work out what the implications are?

I'm really concerned about the ability to return to work 2 weeks after giving birth. Whatever the intention, this will be translated into expectation and pressure in some situations meaning that some women may have a hard time saying no to this. There is no way I could have been back at work 2 weeks after the 1st. Why has this changed from 6 weeks? Is there any medical advice involved in that change?

This is all great but doesn't address the key problem of barriers to childcare. Agree with squirrel here - the biggest barrier to ongoing involvement in the labour market in the long term is the cost of childcare. That can't change since the margins on it aren't great (and who would want to see ratios reduced), so needs subsidy to enable more women to remain as taxpayers in the long term.

I don't know if this is still true now, but the cabinet recently contained more millionaires than women. At the beginning of the coalition it contained more people named David than women. And perhaps it shows in policies like this.. Whilst flexibility for famililes is great, their plan is inadequate, risks putting horrible pressure on women to return to work before they're fit, and misses a chance to address the key issue - the prohibitive cost of childcare.

CelineMcBean Tue 13-Nov-12 12:46:21

thereonthestair you being self employed wouldn't stop your partner taking additional paternity leave now. It is his employment status that is relevant. Yours requires you only to be working or not working. Nothing to do with whether you revive SMP or MA.

(I did just skim that post so will double check I'm not talking at cross purposes but have to duck out now. RL duty calling)

MysteriousNameChange Tue 13-Nov-12 12:47:12

Will parents be allowed to take leave at the same time? I work in the same place as my husband. Can just see my boss's face if we said we were both off for six months! We couldn't actually afford it, but still.

Overall it looks like a good move.

I agree wholeheartedly with the poster above who said there MUST be more professional part-time jobs available.

At the moment, the only way I know to get a decent part time job is to get pregnant and request flexible working, and get it if you're lucky.

Once you're a job with those new hours, it is next to impossible to find companies that will actually advertise or seriously consider people for part-time roles apart from entry level or low paid positions.

It's all very well if you want to stay at the first company, but it means parents who want to move on must choose low-paid jobs with tons of competition, or go back to fulltime after all.

Part-time professional jobs can save companies money, and yet it is so so so rare to see decent part-time jobs advertised.

I know whenever there's ANY part time job in my town virtually all the working and non-working mothers go for it. (Slight exaggeration, but still)

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 12:49:13

At least one of our Family Friendly programme members offers time off to fathers to attend ante-natal appointments. Others allow time off for them under their 'additional events' leave - so there are some folks out there trying to ensure that fathers can go with partners. The current system for sharing maternity/paternity leave seems pretty bonkers to us in the Mumsnet Family Friendly team though - on balance today's announcement feels like a small step in the right direction?

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 12:57:34

Some of our members of the Family Friendly programme are already stepping up to the mark and doing things like allowing paid time off for Fathers to attend antenatal appointments. Our worry is in MNHQ FF team (that's a bit of a mouthful) that the already very very confusing entitlements will become even more confusing. We work on this stuff full time and we have to have a little sit down in a dark room every year after we've read all of the various entitlements, enhancements and policies confused

ZombieOnABicycle Tue 13-Nov-12 13:00:19

I would be concerned about how this affects families where the woman is the only working partner, in our case we'd not benefit anything.

When I was pg with DD DP's company gave him paid time off to attend all ante natal appointments, scans, classes and emergency appointments, I think this should be the law. Just to add in this case it was a small company where DP had no one to cover his job while he was out, but they still supported him.

I think the 2 weeks should be extended to 6 weeks for both mums and dads, as many have already pointed out, you're not healed after 2 weeks, especially if you've had a c-section, and I worry the 2 weeks would make mothers feel they had to return to work after 2 weeks.

I do think sharing the parental leave is a great step forward - but I think we really need to look at increasing the statutory maternity pay before we look at anything else, as I know financial pressure alone was the primary factor to many of the mums in my area returning to work as soon as 6 weeks after the birth, in some cases with no family support.

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 13:00:41

mentlejen - the minimum time a women must take after childbirth before returning to work isn't changing. It's always been 2 weeks.

I think you're maybe confusing it with the 6 weeks at 90% of salary that you get with SMP which means that many women who can't afford to take mat leave at the standard weekly rate go back to work at this point.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 13:01:34

I'm really concerned about the ability to return to work 2 weeks after giving birth. Whatever the intention, this will be translated into expectation and pressure in some situations meaning that some women may have a hard time saying no to this. There is no way I could have been back at work 2 weeks after the 1st. Why has this changed from 6 weeks? Is there any medical advice involved in that change?


janeejane Tue 13-Nov-12 13:06:54

A small change few will be able to take up - used perhaps to make the govt look like they are doing something to avoid demands for bigger changes in maternity allowance and the ridiculous expense of child care.

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 13:08:54

But Zombie, this doesn't benefit families where the dp is the only working partner either confused?

Unless your partner can't care for a child by himself, which obviously puts you in a doubly difficult position as parent and carer, then you're in the same situation as a SAHM where the downside is that you're on one wage, but the upside is that you have no childcare costs.

Ellypoo Tue 13-Nov-12 13:11:34

They seem ok and should help employment prospects for women of childbearing age hopefully, if men actually do start to share the parental leave with the mums.

My DH is self-employed though, so it won't benefit us in any way, unless they were to bring in a 'paternity allowance' similar to statutory paternity pay for the 2 weeks paternity leave.

Think it's good that fathers will be able to attend up to 2 antenatal appointments - to help support their partners' at scans/consultant appointments. My DH hasn't been able to ever come to any of my scans or anything, and he feels like he isn't supporting me properly, but it's because they are always on days that he can't take off, or too short notice to be able to rearrange clients.

The cost impact of these changes on smaller, private sector employers is minimal, and, as i said above - should help them feel more confident about employing women (even though it is illegal to discriminate, you can be certain that many employers are put off employing women because of potential disruption and cost if they were to fall pregnant)

PurpleGentian Tue 13-Nov-12 13:13:08

I think that this is a fantastic step in the right direction, and a positive thing for improving equality for women.

Hopefully over time, this will reduce discrimination against women of childbearing age in the workplace - I know it's illegal already, but there are employers who are reluctant to employ or promote women in case they get pregnant and take a year off.

It's good for families, especially ones where women are the main earner, because now they'll have much more flexibility and choice over how much time each parent wants to, or can afford to, take off with the baby.

I know that not all families will be in a position to benefit - I'm assuming that this option will only be open to families where both parents are eligible for statutory maternity and paternity leave - but it's still a positive step forward.

And I don't agree that this move will now put women under pressure to return to work after 2 weeks. Compulsory maternity leave is already 2 weeks, so employers who are keen on a women returning to work ASAP after birth are already in a position to put pressure on women. I don't see how these new proposals would make that more likely.

I also agree that more needs to be done with regard to affordable childcare to really give parents more choice over work-life balance once parental leave has run out.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 13:16:40

@zombie @sleepyhead but why should benefit for people in work benefit people who are not in work, like SAHM and SAHD?

It's a bit rich to say, but I don't work, why can't I benefit from work benefits?

Maternity pay does need to be higher for longer though. I would propose everyone gets 50% pay for three months rather than 90% for 6 weeks which is just v confusing tbh.

Ellypoo Tue 13-Nov-12 13:17:30

ethelb - it is currently the law that the mother has to take a legal minimum of 2 weeks off after the birth (4 weeks if she works in a factory) - this isn't going to change. I think the 6 weeks you are thinking about are that the first 6 weeks maternity leave are paid at 90% (SMP) - this is unrelated to the minimum amount of maternity leave.

Dahlen Tue 13-Nov-12 13:19:24

Sharing parental leave rather than it all being given to the mother is a huge step forward and long overdue. Very pleased about that.

However, I'd like the wording to be changed to primary and secondary carer, so that same-sex relationships are included.

My biggest disappointment is that the initial two weeks for fathers really needs to be extended if we are serious about getting more fathers involved in childcare. In reality, sticking at two weeks paternity will result in so-called 'parental' leave being used overwhelmingly by mothers. This is due to the mother's need to be at home during that first month or so, mainly for her physical recovery, but also to establish breastfeeding, etc (which needs to be done successfully if she's to stand any chance of returning to work and BFing by expressing milk). By the time that's happened, the roles of mum and dad will be firmly entrenched and so nothing changes... So to some extent, this is lip service, rather than a real attempt to change things.

Completely support the idea of universal right to request flexible working. But would like to see more onus put on companies to actually grant it. Unless we're talking emergency services or jobs that require work during specific hours, modern technology really means that most jobs should be able to work on flexitime, and it's a misconception that all parents would automatically choose 9.30-14.30 hours. I'm a parent, yet I'd always opt to work nights, for example.

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 13:19:26

Interesting point about a small change few will take up - we do keep finding in the FF programme that fathers don't take up their current entitlements, and lots don't know about them. Although we are encouraged that so many fathers respond to our staff surveys which shows they are interested and mostly desperate to find out. Just not very often asked! Am curious to know what you think to the rest of the announcement? what about extending the right to wider family members to ask for flexible working? Grandparents and aunts being able to work flexibly to help out with childcare. Will that work or is it window dressing?

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 13:19:35

Yes, I was just talking about smp, which I know isn't related to the minimum amount of time off

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 13:19:49

ethelb - I agree with you. You can't have paid leave from work when you're not working.

I was just suggesting to zombie that the new legislation doesn't (on the face of it anyway) leave someone with an unemployed male partner any worse of than a man with an unemployed female partner.

mentlejen Tue 13-Nov-12 13:22:32

sleepyhead and ethelb - I've learnt something today, then. I've always worked in places where the policy is no return prior to 6 weeks. I thought they were reflecting the law, but obviously they were just enlightened employers.

So you're advised not to have sex for six weeks, and not to do any serious exercise before then but you can get back to full time work after two weeks?

That's bonkers. (goes off to get better educated on the subject)

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 13:22:51

I don't think the right to request flexible working is as exciting as it looks tbh. Many women have found that it's a fairly toothless right.

I suspect grandparents and other family members will find it fairly worthless as well, and that an employer who would let you change your hours to look after a dependent would have done that without legislation.

Could be wrong though. Sometimes it takes legislation to make employers think for a second past the kneejerk "impossible".

StuntNun Tue 13-Nov-12 13:25:52

The six weeks rule applies to factory workers. Is that going to change to two weeks or not?

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 13:27:22

I think the whole 2 week thing is a red herring tbh. very very few women go back to work after 2 weeks anyway, very few at six weeks even. Are there any figures on these things? What is the average time off?

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 13:27:39

Factory workers have a 4 week minimum, not 6. As this is for H&S reasons I very much doubt it will change.

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 13:31:54

we certainly do have lots of programme members who already allow anyone to ask for flexible working - so the good guys do behave well - although they do it because it is good for business as well as employees! I guess it is about whether legislation will encourage some of the not so good guys to step up to the mark. Lots of staff we talk to say that they feel people who are not parents think they get 'perks' - maybe this will help to tackle some of that as well. If it applied to more people maybe we'll start to reach a position where everyone understands that raising kids is a big job and it's in everyone's interests that families can do that easily smile Takes a village and all that cheesy stuff. Sorry - posting from America and have come over all stateside!

Dahlen Tue 13-Nov-12 13:33:21

Vicki as the government are raising retirement age and encouraging us all to move away from family to go where the jobs are, I don't think flexible working for grandparents will amount to very much. Many will be too committed/old/infirm/geographically removed to be of much help, and this is only going to get worse over time. This has important implications for working mothers, as currently 4 in 5 rely on family members for the majority of their childcare. We are actually going to see more women forced to stay at home unless the govt. bring in measures to make childcare more affordable IMO.

However, flexible working is great for people who have other caring commitments, such as partners with disabilities, parents with early dementia, etc.

dreamingofsun Tue 13-Nov-12 13:36:36

vicki - i work for a company that has won good employee of the year type awards and i work from home PT. But this does depend on your manager - some are totally blinkered and will not allow it/ or have some working for them on this basis. And because there are more employees than jobs its meant no promotion; as I'm always in competition with someone who is FT and the recruiting manager doesn't hold the budget just the headcount.

thereonthestair Tue 13-Nov-12 13:42:41

Celine according to the announcements each parent will need to meet the qualifying criteria for leave and/or pay in their own right. Where possible, these qualifying criteria will mirror the criteria for existing entitlements such as maternity pay and allowance and paternity pay and leave. And therefore one assumes for parental leave. If this matches the current law the self employed just don't have the rights of the employees. As I said upthread its a wrinkle to smooth out where one partner is employed and the other self employed. It's currently a mess. I am not entitled to maternity leave as I am not an employee. I can be given it under the terms of a contract, and depending on my NI may get maternity allowance, but I do not get statutory leave, nor the right to go back to the same job (and I do have a job in everything but name as a member of an LLP). If I don't get maternity leave my DH couldn't share it.... now he could get paternity leave, and parental leave, but again I can' get parental leave so again how can DH share it??

GreySquirrel Tue 13-Nov-12 13:42:45

I also wondered about the point of the right to "request" flexible working. They say it wont negatively affect employers because they don't have any obligation to agree to it, so what does it really change? Surely people have always been able to ask for flexible working and the more enlightened employers will try to accommodate, and others will just say no. Will that not be exactly the same situation? Would it not be better to offer more support/free advice to businesses on how to be more creative and make flexibility work for both employer and employee?

olgaga Tue 13-Nov-12 13:48:41

There is absolutely no way I could have returned to work after two weeks. I was in no fit state or even anywhere near it! Nor, for that matter, was any mum I know.

How the hell does this fit in with the "breast is best" guidance?

I'm sure some women would manage it - but certainly not most.

I think it's different too if you have a job which involves quite physical/manual work - being on your feet for 8 hours a day etc.

Which of course the likes of Clegg and Cameron have absolutely no experience of. Or their wives!

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 13:53:09

Arrrgh!!! No one is asking women to go back to work after 2 weeks! But you can if you want.

And you can if you want right now. This hasn't changed. The only people I've ever heard of going back after 2 weeks are the likes of Nicola Horlicks who make a big virtue of taking business calls mid c-section. They get a nanny to look after the baby just now, but the new legislation means that they could (if they wanted, and their partner wanted) get their partner to look after the baby instead and take parental leave.

My only concern would be that women should have more than the initial 2 weeks, they need to physically recover. Otherwise fabulous idea.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 14:04:56

@olgaga Short of paying women to stay at home and breastfeed for a longer time there isn't much the Gov can do.

Plus, under these arrangements mothers could choose to have their partner at home to support them with breastfeeding (esp if they have other children) while they are on maternity leave. Yes, that may only be an option for the very well off or those with v good maternity pay, but it is a potential choice which wasn't there before.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 14:05:48

@glitterknickaz "Arrrgh!!! No one is asking women to go back to work after 2 weeks! But you can if you want. And you can if you want right now. This hasn't changed. "

That. And all other posts on the subject.

olgaga Tue 13-Nov-12 14:06:10

Yes, I know - it's just how he has chosen to talk about this as though it was some marvellous offering:

Clegg's legislation changes also mean that mothers will have to take at least the initial two weeks of leave after birth as recovery period. However, after that, the decision of which parent takes time off to care for their new child will be up to them.

As though all the women will be piling back to work and men will be at home trying to bottle-feed a two week old baby with all that breastmilk (so easy to express in those early days)...

Just not convinced this will make any difference to the take-up of paternity leave !

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 14:06:19

Dreaminofsun and Dahen I really agree with you - my parents live far too far away to help with childcare even if they were fit enough - but I do think that anything that promotes a flexible working culture has to be good. The old 1950's 9-5 is so out of date that it seems crazy we haven't created a bigger range and more creative ways to working differently throughout our working lives. With career breaks made affordable and possible and opportunities to return to work after a break without having to slide right back down the career ladder.

But even if you're doing it flexibly you're still working not caring for a child so the big question does come back to childcare and the incredibly high costs thereof. That's the elephant in the old room.

That point about what you get coming down to line management comes up again and again in our reviews of Family Friendly members. We fed it back to them last year and this year we have seen some responding - one for example has created a managers toolkit to explain how managers should apply family friendly policies. Another has given every member of staff information. Baby steps but they help I think.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 14:11:04

I am really quite depressed at the tone of this thread. DP has just texted me thrilled about this as it is something we have been waiting for before having children as I am the main earner.

I think attitudes will change with an increase in awareness. I'm 25 and lots of my male friends have been looking forward to this announcement of ages.

In the nicest way possible do you think the thread is a bit biased as many posters are SAHM and their DP is the main earner so it wont make as big a difference for them. I think this could make a huge difference to loads of women.

I hope in three years time there will be threads saying "AIBU to ask DP to take 6 months parental leave so I can take up a promotion?". Here's hoping!

dreamingofsun Tue 13-Nov-12 14:11:17

the aging population may help. I've had several line managers recently who've had to take time off for ill parents. They can hardly demand this flexibility themselves and then deny people time to look after ill children. i think it encourages them to accept that we are all people and not machines and therefore have a life outside work.

Yes 'nobody' is - but what of a family dynamic where a woman was put under unreasonable pressure to return by her partner for whatever reason at the expense of her health?

I really do agree with it by the way - I have family doing it this way already (very family friendly company they work for).

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 14:14:45

@glitterknickaz If that is going to be a problem in 2015 then it woudl be a problem now. As nothing is changing. And its not a problem now as far as I am aware.

notenoughsocks Tue 13-Nov-12 14:15:13

small steps, right direction.

I too worry about the actual strength of the request. Being granted the 'right to request' might amount to very little irl, esp in certain industries, particuarly male dominated industries, with a deeply ingrained un-family friendly culture. I know from experience that having a partner in these sorts of industries can practically force couples to adopt 1950s routines.

Not really sure how many fathers/grandparents/aunts/uncles etc. will leap at the chance, but everybody looks like they might be about to, it might help reduce discrimination against women of a certain age.

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 14:16:54

Oh please don't be depressed ethelb! I'm old enough to be able to reflect on how far we have come. When my son was born in 1998 there wasn't a right to ask for flexible working. SMP was pathetic - no right to a year's maternity leave (even unpaid) and flexible working meant being allowed to leave on time if you were lucky. No Children's Centres, no free childcare for 2 year olds - we have really made progress. We just need to make it all work better!

Yorkpud Tue 13-Nov-12 14:25:23

Don't really get who is paying for the man to be off if he takes the leave instead of the woman??

So if for example I had a baby and took the intial 6 weeks off for maternity leave, could my husband then take the remainder of the time up to nine months to look after the baby when I go back to work? If so would his company be eligible to pay him (p)maternity leave for that time in the same way they would pay a woman? Therefore, is it more likely for the one in a company that pays a better maternity package to take the majority of time off??

olgaga Tue 13-Nov-12 14:28:21

I really can't see how this will help the majority of parents who will still have the problem of finding affordable childcare long after the parental leave is over.

In my area it's not even that childcare is unaffordable - there's an acute shortage of nursery places and childminders. That's what forces the lowest earner out of work - not a "perception that women have to be the primary care-givers."

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 14:28:36

oh I'll cheer up.

notenoughsocks I also wonder how many grandparents will jump at the chance tbh, plus it will drag up questions about how many rights grandparents have which troubles me a bit tbh.

Plus, my youngest sister is 17, my mum chose to have three children youngish and hire nannies (at great expense) so she could go to work and take promotions, so that when the time came (now) she could power ahead for the rest of her career without having childcare to worry about. She graduated from her PhD last week and her pension won't kick in for another 16 years. She has already told me that she's not looking after any of our babies. And fair enough tbh if they want to keep a roof over their heads in retirement.

Plus I am one of the lucky ones who has quite young parents. People who have their first child late 30s/early 40s won't have parents fit enough to look after their children even if they are retired.

The retirement age is going to be 68 FFS.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 14:30:27

@yorkpud I wondere whether there will be attacks on that as it is essentially discrimatory of company policy.

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 14:32:18 there is an interesting point. The government can only legislate about Statutory leave. So that's what's available for sharing in financial terms. What each employer does about offering an enhanced package to mothers and fathers is going to be good to watch. In theory, if a father works somewhere that offers enhanced maternity pay that doesn't automatically mean that he would get that under the new proposals if he took some of what is currently his partners maternity leave entitlement - but then I don't know how equal opps legislation will affect that. Not clear at the moment.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 14:34:45

It is interesting, as if that doesn't change employers will still be able to claim that hiring women of 'childbearing age' is 'too expensive'.

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 14:36:21

grandparent rights trouble me a tiny bit too. But that's only because I have a bonkers mother in law sad

Narked Tue 13-Nov-12 14:37:45

'The right to request flexible working' is a joke.

May I change my hours?

Let me think about that.

next day


All legal requirements met.

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 14:46:47

The sort of companies that offer enhanced mat pay tend not to bitch about the cost of employing women. It would be a bit silly if they did, since they're under no obligation to offer any enhanced benefit and presumably do so in order to attract and retain good female employees.

Having said that, when dc2 is born next year I'll be taking the first 6 months off and dh will take the next 6 months. Part of the reason is that I want to be with the baby for 6 months, but it also make sense for me to do so since I get enhanced maternity pay for that time. Under the new legislation this would obviously be a factor to be considered.

Dh's employers are equal-op bastards so he'll be telling them of his plans to take paternal leave at the latest possible moment. They will probably try and sack him - luckily he's already briefed his union rep and they've been speaking to their legal dept. He's hoping not to return after the 6 months off.. bad companies attract no loyalty.

Absy Tue 13-Nov-12 15:07:10

I think it's a small step in the right direction. If employers know that, not only could potentially the women in her 20s/30s/40s request time off in future for Mat leave, but also the men (of pretty much any age) it makes it a bit more difficult to justify to themselves not hiring a woman of childbearing age in case she falls pregnant and needs to go on Mat Leave. (apologies if that does not make sense, my brain is not all there today)

Basically, it means that men and women are equally "risky" in terms of potentially being off work for an extended period to care for a small child.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 15:14:49

@bealos no its not. So it is right hthat it is being made one.

JugglingWithPossibilities Tue 13-Nov-12 15:19:11

Perhaps it's slight progress, but it's not enough, especially in terms of properly funded leave for either parent.

Kendodd Tue 13-Nov-12 15:24:58

I really don't understand why so many people seem to be against this.

Re, women having a mandatory two weeks of after the birth then being forced back to work. This is the situation anyway and I don't see employers forcing women back to work.

It'll cost too much! Well I don't see how it will really cost any more, no extra ML is being given. The only change seems that you can now divide ML in a way that works best for individual couples.

We don't (and can never have) a perfect system that suits everyone but this is a good step forward and the man taking the ML instead of the women will work better for a lot of couples.

Xenia Tue 13-Nov-12 15:25:01

As someone who has alwasy had a fairly gender neutral relationship (and out earned the husband by 10x) and we both worked full time this is marvellous news. The sooner we stamp out sexist patterns the better. The fact Nick Clegg is outearned by Miriam G his wife and even part time Mrs Cameron may well out earn her other half clearly is terribly helpful in ensuring those in charge understand mother marriages where men do as much as women at home - see Rifkind's piece in today's Times about working fathers dealing with child sick at 5.30am. This is how couples are not, circa 1850, wife at home cleaning whilst man earns.

However the bottom line remains that in the UK unless you are in the money wasting public sector on the whole you get 6 weeks at 90% pay and then it's down to subsistence level something the press never mention - they give the impression you are on full pay for 6 months even if that full pay is £100k ay ear. You're not. So most people will childcare for other children to pay for, a mortgage and the like cnanot live believe it or not very easily on £115 a week. This is not a bad thing as it makes women get back to full time work and not lose their jobs and become pin money or no money servants in the house. In other words the low level of maternity pay can ensure women keep their careers and works in their interest.

It may be no coincidence that for 5 children I had no maternity pay rights at all so 20+ years on I earn fairly large sums and did pretty well. Had I been the only one in the relationship able to stay at home on high pay my career could have been shot to pieces.

Anyway it is a good move.

it will also make it harder for sexist men to suggest to wives they should be home doing bottom wiping (as only wives get maternity leave) whilst he swans off to the office to be treated like a God.

Treats Tue 13-Nov-12 15:42:54

Re: the predictable squeals of outrage from small business groups. As an employee of a small business who's about to take their THIRD maternity leave from the same company, I have to say that if this were implemented now, I would be much more likely to return early. I'm only delaying my return because the cost of childcare when I return will leave me worse off than staying at home on SMP. If I could share it with DH, I would, and I'd be back to work like a shot. So my small business employer would benefit from getting me back sooner. Possibly even soon enough for them to avoid all the costs of taking on a replacement.

It annoys the tits off me when people start chuntering about the impact on small businesses whenever anyone pushes for a change to maternity rights. The costs are actually quite negligible - depending on what you've put in your employees' contracts - and won't change in aggregate as a result of this proposal.

Pension auto enrolment was introduced last month with barely a murmur but will have a much greater impact on the cost of taking on new employees than any change to maternity rights. But somehow the prospect of women being given more freedom and flexibility always seems to bring people out in a frothing rage.....

Oodthunkit Tue 13-Nov-12 15:54:23

public sector worker here on BASIC pay no enhancements here angry can people pleases top assuming we all get the same. angry

MamaMary Tue 13-Nov-12 16:09:41

I think it's a good and perfectly sensible idea.

I agree that there is still a perception that maternity leave is spent lounging around sitting at home doing nothing (some comments to this effect were read out on my local radio station, grrrr) so let men have a go at it then.

It would certainly suit me as I have flexible working patterns - not sure how DH's employer would actually feel about it though in reality.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 16:14:30

xenia public sector workers only get basic mat leave entitlement. except at the bbc they get tonnes.

Teachers don't get anything for example.

My private sector employers have provided massive enhanced mat pay, but not my public sector contract.

PseudoBadger Tue 13-Nov-12 16:16:12

Lol Xenia - I'll shortly be going on my second maternity leave from my local govt job - basic terms only. Care to top me up? grin

Xenia Tue 13-Nov-12 16:18:08

NHS nurses after 6 months get 8 weeks on 90% pay. The statutory minimum which most private sector employers pay is just 6 weeks on 90% pay.

Xenia Tue 13-Nov-12 16:18:37

Oh and I get nothing as I am self employed by the way so the 6 weeks at 90% pay is simply something I have never had.

Oodthunkit Tue 13-Nov-12 16:21:19

SE people qualify for maternity allowance as long as you have NI contributions. So not nothing
And public sector isn't only nurses.
Tbh I wouldn't begrudge nurses that little bit extra as they do a shit job and I wouldn't want a 2 week PN nurse looking after me as the majority wouldn't be fit to do so,

olgaga Tue 13-Nov-12 16:26:39

I have read more analysis of these proposals and nothing has altered my view that this is just cynical PR.

It gives the appearance of progress, but face it - unless fathers have the right to decent statutory paternity leave independent of the mother's work status, (a ridiculous, unworkable arrangement) it won't fundamentally change anything.

If this government is concerned about making life easier for working parents, why is Francis Maude threatening to end flexible working arrangements in the Civil Service?

Jenijena Tue 13-Nov-12 16:30:04

I'm almost at the end of my six months maternity period, when I go back to work my husband is taking 3 months off through the existing statutory shared parental leave rights (since April 2011). This is because I think it's important for both parents to be as involved with the children as possible. Incidentally, my husband earns more than me.

Issues that reflect my personal experience (ie as an employee) include:

1. Transferring SMP (which can currently get transferred to the other parent, if they're doing what we're doing) between parents' employers seems to trouble HR brains.

2. DH's employer (private sector) offers an enhanced maternity pay with some salary paid to mothers for a full 12 month period. DH will get nothing: if we both worked there it would make no economic sense for me to transfer say, months 6-12 of my leave to DH because as a family we'd be saying goodbye to enhanced mat leave benefits. This will get wildly exacerbated if the periods of leave are more flexibly adjusted.

3. Rights to use accrued annual leave at the ends of periods of statutory parental leave mean that SMP is interrupted, and can't be continued (though the right to take leave off is still available). Again, an HR nightmare and exacerbated by a more flexible approach to mat leave.

We need to understand these proposals this way: every new child is entitled to 54 weeks of parental leave, subsidised by HMRC. Mum and Dad will both get a minimum of 2 weeks. How the rest of this is shuffled becomes a family decision.

thereonthestair Tue 13-Nov-12 16:36:02

Jenijena DH's employer is probably falling foul of the exisitng laws on sex discrimination. This is generally accepted by most private sector employers who already offer enhanced pay (and the better ones are already allowing it). It's another wrinkle though and one fo the problems with the parasitic nature of the rights

SuiGeneris Tue 13-Nov-12 16:38:36

Excellent news on the extension of the right to request flexible working and to share parental leave with the option of taking it at the same time. If this had been possible when we had DCs, DH would probably have taken a month when the children were newborns and it would have been great.
As others have said, this should also mean that avoiding hiring women of childbearing age is a less effective strategy for those businesses who wish to minimise the risk of having flexible working requests and people going off on parental leave...

olgaga Tue 13-Nov-12 16:41:22

avoiding hiring women of childbearing age is a less effective strategy

I'm not sure about that - it is still wholly dependent on the mother's work status.

OddBoots Tue 13-Nov-12 16:41:38

For what it is worth I went back to work 2 weeks after giving birth to my surrogate children, I would have been thrilled if I could then have passed on leave to the mother of the babies (and even more so if she could share that with the dad too). I don't know if that would fit into these plans though.

CelineMcBean Tue 13-Nov-12 16:48:50

Link to Clegg's speech here

I am going to wade through and then I'll come on here later and see if I can do a summary answering some of the common questions. I have to do this for work so a bit of cut and paste is no extra work for me.

Oodthunkit Tue 13-Nov-12 16:54:29

That's an interesting add on oddboots the person who gives birth needs an allowance for recovery AND the parents need baby time. Not sure that the Govt will have even considered it.

This is really great news. I understand this does nothing for the low earning females, but there are many mothers now with university degrees. And potential higher earnings this will bring. I personally know of many that earn at least equal or more than their husbands. Sadly that is because I worked as a postdoc research fellow and scientists are overeducated and underpaid. Many have wives who are doctors, lawyers, bankers and earn far more than them. I know two who have followed their wives career overseas even! Yes it might affect breastfeeding rates, but some couples just can't afford the mother to not work. My banker friend has to return after 3 months on maternity because they can't afford their mortgage on her husband's salary. With this shared leave, the father would be able to stay at home looking after the baby. This surely is preferable to using a nanny, which is what they are doing currently.

achillea Tue 13-Nov-12 17:17:08

Excellent idea, particularly as the leave is attached to the child rather than the parent. It means that whoever gets the time off work to look after the children will feel it is a privilege and not a chore.

It should also be attached with some kind of system to ensure that children are protected and safe as it could be open to abuse in the case of vulnerable mothers.

Ellypoo Tue 13-Nov-12 17:24:39

I earn more than my DH - unfortunately(!) though, he is self-employed so this wouldn't be any benefit to us. I do think that it's a great step forward in terms of offering the flexibility that both parents can take the time together, and for both parents to share the work & time looking after the baby.

In terms of grandparents - I think extending the right to request flexible working is a great idea! Yes, some employers aren't as forward thinking as others in terms of granting it, but others will be. From our point of view, both my DMum & PIL are retired, so they are lined up to look after our baby anyway, along with my DH taking an extra day off from his work (condensing his clients into 4 days), so we have childcare covered, as I will be returning to work full time - however I do know that childcare can be really expensive in some areas, and this is a major factor in determining when parents return to work (regardless of how the parental leave is split).

I do think though that education is needed for employers to understand the implications for them - yes the financial impact of SMP is negligable (generally 92% of the cost can be reclaimed), but the cost of recruiting replacements to cover work isn't, and continuing to offer the other benefits eg still accruing paid leave during the parental leave period, company cars, pension contributions, nursery vouchers etc - and can be a big thing for a lot of companies.

Xenia Tue 13-Nov-12 18:00:33

Yes, I agree the self employed have maternity allowance of about £115 a week but if you have a big mortgage, older children in child care ( you cannot suddenly give up a nursery place or a nanny when a new baby comes, for the older child) and out earn your other half you that £115 is not really easy to live on so the difference between employed equal 6 weeks at 90% pay and self employed £115 is huge gulf for the slightly higher earner. I am not suggesting changing it however as it is an incentive to keep working so the fact women are not paid much when off work on maternity leave after the first 6 weeks (or nurses 8 weeks) encourages them back sooner so helps their careers and lives in a peverse way.

This measure is great. The many many women who earn more than their other halves will find it much easier to get back to work and make arrangements which suit the family as to who looks after children.

First of all the UK has the worst breastfeeding rates in Europe - absolutely pathetic and actually it is wht working class mothers those who often work who breastfeed longer. I fed all the babies including twins for at least a year AND I was back at work full time 2 weeks after they were born. Breastfeeding and working are not mutually exclusive.

Oodthunkit Tue 13-Nov-12 18:11:44

SMP is £128ish a week?

olgaga Tue 13-Nov-12 18:18:24

You might find that looking at the Press Release is useful.

The key points are:

Mothers will be able to choose the length of maternity leave that is right for them

The balance of maternity leave and pay will become available to eligible parents to share between them as flexible parental leave and pay

Parents will be able to take leave concurrently or consecutively

Leave can be taken in a flexible way, enabling parents to better balance work with caring responsibilities

Fathers will be able to take on the bulk of caring responsibility if the family choose

Fathers will be able to get more involved from the earliest stages of pregnancy with a new right to unpaid leave to attend up to 2 antenatal appointments.

All parents of children under 18 will have the right to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave per parent per child

The Government will extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.

(My emphasis).

Xenia Tue 13-Nov-12 19:56:34

Something like that. What I earn in half an hour...

LaCiccolina Tue 13-Nov-12 19:59:20

I like the proposals here.

Unfortunately I see several issues. Firstly, this Gov just removed many legalities that protected employees making it far easier to sack someone. It really wasn't that difficult to begin with if the firm made effort to collect evidence and bring a good case. They are giving with one had and clawing back with the other.... Many big and smaller firms will be adept at creating atmosphere so employees feel unable to ask for or take advantage of these new opportunities. Many felt that before these changes so whats different?

Secondly, it does nothing to alter the facts. Business for most firms of all sizes are 5 days per week. Hours are usually around 830-6pm. Pressure is great to keep to these or forfeit your role. Presently with world economics heaping more worry onto people will they really go for it? Particularly will men? I dont see attitudes changing in HRs, legal teams or in those running the books. Flexible hours are great but its very hard to argue how your job will get done in the hours you are not there to do it. Its much easier to argue against it, than for it. Unfortunately, I know as I did alot of that in my previous life......

I think many would love to take advantage, and I hope I become in a position to myself when I return, Im just cautious as to how many and in what jobs that actually will prove to be the case.

I sincerely hope my grandkids get better chances as I dont think much will change for my dds.... Gosh I hope Im wrong there.....!

ginnybag Tue 13-Nov-12 20:12:37

Do you know what would really mak this work for all parties? The right to split a week. So Mum is home Mon/Tues/Wed, Dad Thurs/Fri (or whatever working pattern is). Both parents get time at home, both employers keep their employee to cover critical stuff, neither parent takes a huge career break with all that that implies.

Pay is dealt with in proportion - so the woman gets 2/5 hr normal pay, and 3/5ths Mat pay, Dad gets 3/5th's pay and 2/5th's Mat pay. The overall cost hasn't increased but now neither parent is losing all earning power, which is a much healthier dynamic.

I also think there needs to be a greater right to stop and start leave. I had to go back to work full time after 8 weeks. In a tiny (then) company, in a job I'd had less than a year, I needed to be there for the end of the financial year. Unfortunately I needed to be there for more than 10 days, which meant that my MA stopped - so back to work it was. Full time.

I should have been able to go back for two weeks, leaving DD with DH, and then restart the split leave described above.

olgaga Tue 13-Nov-12 20:24:32

The real problem with the proposals is the fact that they have not brought in paternity leave on a "use it or lose it" basis. That is the only way to increase take-up.

The vast majority of parents will not be in any position to share their "flexible parental leave", even if they wanted to.

Meanwhile, the government are intent on treating flexible working in the Civil Service (allowing for a 9 day fortnight) as an outrageous "perk" in the Civil Service, and want to stop it. That - together with the child benefit, housing benefit and tax credit changes, shows you how what they really think about employees with caring responsibilities.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 20:53:21

xenia, just out of interest (and as someone who has just made her first sale off the back of your £1000 a day thread) how did you breast feed while working?
Its something I really want to do when I have children (as I said upthread DP and I are planning on starting trying in 18 months or so) but I don't think I will take a long mat leave, and DP would take parental leave. So how did you do it? Esp twins?!

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 20:55:17

ginny bag, I think you can have a staggered start back can't you? Or is that just some employers?

Xenia Tue 13-Nov-12 21:00:51

(Breastfeeding and working - in 1983 when I had the first I bought a book on breastfeeding and working, whilst I was pregnant and I had always loved the idea and read my mothers NCT pamphlets about it in my teens; then with the first 3 I was working so I expressed the milk at work and kept it in an insulated freezer bag with ice packs to bring it home for our nanny to give the baby the next day (I have never fed a baby out of a bottle personally actually ever). It is not as much fun as breastfeeding one to one and a hassle but in our case the right solution as I had potential to earn quite a bit.

With the twins I was working for myself so when I was working here at home our nanny would call me out of the office when they wanted to be fed and I did it always both at the same time (if one woke in the night as they did every few hours - I have yet to produce a child who sleeps, I would always wake the other two and feed them one on each side together)

I also froze my milk for back up supplies in case the expressed milk from the day before ran out. It worked fine. I also fed just before I left for work and left on time (which is not always easy in many jobs) and fed the second I got home and then the usually ever 2-3 hours including at night that most little babies want. Then just fed direct all weekends and holidays. As one of these breastfed products ran the London marathon last year and the other was the best at all sports at her school and the boys are pretty fit I think it worked well and I loved it - women on here never write about the pleasure of it but it is really lovely, you have that closeness (once you've got it going), build up , release of oxytocin when the milk lets down etc etc One of the nicest things I have done)

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 21:03:53

freezer bags and ice packs. Thanks Xenia!

Ellypoo Tue 13-Nov-12 21:04:15

You can work up to 10 'KIT' days and still be on maternity leave (and therefore SMP) however if you work more than that, then your maternity leave legally has to stop.

For example - I would like to take 7 months maternity leave next year (as that works well between tax year end and financial year end with my job), but wish to work a couple of days each month to oversee month end but I can only legally do 10 days, so I won't be able to do that. It doesn't help me or my company, but that's the law.

Staggering return is slightly different if you start back part time and build it up, but there won't be any ability to receive any proportion of SMP alongside reduced pay.

Takver Tue 13-Nov-12 21:39:25

I think the proposals are good. Obviously they aren't (a) going to solve all the other problems of parenthood in particular finding affordable childcare once both parents are back at work, nor (b) suddenly transport us into a gender neutral parenting world.

But, they make it possible for couples to share early parenting as they wish, and I suspect that attitudes will change over time as more men take up the option.

What I'm not clear about is whether parents will be able to split the week - eg the father work 2 days & have 3 days parental leave, and the mother work 3 days / 2 days parental leave. I can imagine this would suit a lot of couples with slightly older babies.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 21:40:22

I have mixed feelings about kit days tbh. I think they are a great idea but if you are the poor Sod covering the mat leave then I can see them being annoying. Though tbf not as annoying as people deciding they arent coming back just after you have taken a new lesser paid job ( bitter experience)

OddBoots Tue 13-Nov-12 21:44:24

Having read more of this it seems there is provision for surrogacy included, it's a bit vague in regard to when leave will be granted (as in, is it from birth?) but at least it's there.

MiniTheMinx Tue 13-Nov-12 21:53:37

I'm with LaCiccolina this government gives with one hand and takes with the other.

If it comes to pass after April that Employers can trade workers rights for shares and staff are made to feel generally very insecure then it doesn't take a great leap to conclude that we are going to see a two tier system of workers rights. With key staff secure, having rights and be granted paternal leave and flexible working to care for......well anyone they see fit to care for including their neighbours children. Whilst low waged workers already struggling, having their rights stripped and being denied flexible working and parental leave on pain of losing their job. I also think that women will be the losers...key staff will be under pressure to return after two weeks or as soon as, other staff forced to return or lose their job. Don't say it won't happen, they have already closed the door on employment tribunals and cut the funding.

Idiot ideas from a government which is in chaos. Smacks of of an agenda to divide workers along class lines, as though that were necessary.

DrCoconut Tue 13-Nov-12 23:03:14

I'm the main earner. I had 4 weeks annual leave and 6 months ML after DS2 was born. Then our savings ran out and I had to go back to work, very much against my instincts toward my baby. DH was actually better off during his 2 weeks PL as his salary after travel costs is less than SPP. If we had been able to transfer the remaining ML to him instead of put DS into nursery it would have been great.

Want2bSupermum Wed 14-Nov-12 01:20:44

I think this is a step in the right direction. Maternity leave should be split and it is patronizing to dictate when one can return to work. For someone who is more senior and has the resources available to hire help, returning after 2 weeks isn't a problem. For the average person, such as myself, I need at least 4 weeks for myself. At 8 weeks baby is somewhat on a schedule.

Going into baby #2 I am planning on taking my leave in autumn when the baby will be 6-9 months. I found the first few months to be rather boring. By 6 months their personalities start to come out and I think it is the best phase.

ChasedByBees Wed 14-Nov-12 07:31:28

Rather than debate the merits of this, I thought I share my experiences. My husband and I work for the same company which allows couples to share maternity and paternity leave.

I choose to have 9 months and my husband has taken the last three months. This has worked really well, it gave me time to recover from the birth and establish breastfeeding. The three months that my husband has been looking after our baby has been good for him - it's really helped to cement his relationship with DD and he has a new appreciation of the challenges of childcare (I say that of course, but I'm dictating this to my phone and he's next to me saying 'it's a cinch! hmm )

One thing we have noticed is that people assume he's not really doing childcare - he's helping me out or something. So many people say to him, 'oh how lovely that you have her for the day'. I think he also gets asked to do things by others and they don't take his childcare responsibilities into consideration in the same way they would as if I were on ML.

It would be good if this situation was normalised so people wouls stop making those assumptions and I think that this legislation can only help with that.

If small businesses will suffer from this legislation, then I think that demonstrates that there has been discrimination against women of child bearing age, and it's only right that that stops.

ChasedByBees Wed 14-Nov-12 07:34:49

Want2b - I have to say, I have a senior role and all the help in the world wouldn't have been able to get me back into the office at 2 weeks. I was still passing pieces of placenta at 3 weeks. sad

I think the 2 week rule is a red herring - it's there to stop women returning immediately, not to get them back to work at 2 weeks.

Xenia Wed 14-Nov-12 08:42:26

It depends on the person. I was still having light bleeding but just like a tiny period at 2 weeks and indeed 6 - went back at 2 weeks. But for good ness sake most jobs involving sitting at desk typing. That is much much easier on your health than up an down to a baby all day whilst running after the toddler whilst the 4 year old is trying to escape up the stairs. The reality for most women with other young children at home is not lying in bed resting particularly with second children.

In fact that peace of sitting at a desk and doing work and break from the baby even when the baby is just 2 weeks can do your health a massive boost compared to being home with 3 under 4s which was what we had when number 3 came along.

I agree with ChasedB that there can be assumptions. My children's father was always assumed to be able to work late even though he had to be back first at 6 when our nanny left whilst female colleagues with childlren were assumed not to be able to do the late things. (He was also told once he would not get a pay rise because I earned too much...)

I would have preferred "use it or lose it" with leave to both genders to encourage men to be home but I can accept the alternative and with more women earning more than men it will make sense for many to let the man take more of the leave.

We still remain however with 6 weeks of 90% pay for women though and after that fall off a cliff into a rate few people could keep a family on - £115 a week particularly if you are also paying childcare for the older child because you don't want to lose that nursery place, nanny or chidl minder never mind the older child's relationship with that carer when you are on leave. So there can be merit in returning at week 6 if you want to. I am not sure women are properly advised that lots of us do that and find it works very well and there is no God given obligation to take lots of time off on minimum wage pay.

Dahlen Wed 14-Nov-12 09:03:08

For once Xenia, I am in agreement with you. If you have a desk job, going to work (psychological stress aside) is far easier than being at home. I certainly went back to work much earlier than most simply to get a break and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and toileting breaks where I could close the door... grin

SuiGeneris Wed 14-Nov-12 12:31:10

Xenia on breastfeeding and working: what a great post and example. I work in a similar field and also went back to work early (from home), having DS brought into my study for feeds. It is a lovely feeling once it works. And we were very lucky, I think, to be able to mix it well with working.

Xenia Wed 14-Nov-12 13:07:58

Yes, I get surprised by people saying in 2012 that you cannot breastfeed and work when people were buying books on working and breastfeeding in the early 80s. You wonder if it is a sexist myth put out to keep women down and in kitchens to suggest no woman ever breastfeeds and works.

thereonthestair Wed 14-Nov-12 13:21:41

I also breastfed and retunred to work, in my case when my ds was 6 months but I did it for 9 months. I too did express and fridge/freezer 9and in fact even donated some milk). I also once expressed in a court building 9and the court staff were lovely when I had to be there all day and they offered me a firdge. It was easy and fine.

I also want to add that not everyone wants those first 2 weeks off. I didn't. I had a premature child who was in hospital. He was very small and the birth took 2 hours start to finish. It was less painful and caused less long term issues than my slightly earlier miscarriage. I was climbing stairs an hour later. At the time I wanted to go back to work. I could do very little for my child but my work was not as organised as I would have liked as I left in a hurry. A few hours of getting things more sorted would have been great However I was not allowed to. with the miscarriage I was expected to despite the fact that for my health the opposite would have been better. Now I am all for no-one being forced to do anything but the one size fits all is not always appropriate.

From the perspective of a premature birth these proposals are welcome. There is often little point in the father taking time off when the child is born, but they can be really needed when the child comes home, often months later and with complications such as oxygen and tube feeding.

jes73 Wed 14-Nov-12 14:53:23

Well firstly, though I had a really difficult delivery(intensive care for 10 days after a cardiac arrest) my DH had to take annual leave as the statutory pay simply didnt cover expenses.
So first I think the level of pay needs to go up.
Secondly 2 days unpaid leave? Surely one can take time off from annual leave if it is essential to be there for a check up?
Doesn't sound like a great change to me!!

JugglingWithPossibilities Wed 14-Nov-12 15:29:46

I think the new right for Fathers to two days un-paid leave so that they could accompany partner to appointments is definitely to be welcomed. If woman is concerned about something such as less movement of baby or bleeding in pregnancy and for example has a scan to see if all is still well it's got to be good if legislation means it's more likely she will have some support from a partner rather than going on her own.
I think the idea is also that attending some appointments/ scans together will help Father bond with baby better.

Xenia Thu 15-Nov-12 21:46:55

I think it is becoming more common. One of my children worked with someone who took her maternity leave first and then her husband took 6 months off after or may be 3 - the company allows it as it has a generous paternity scheme as well as maternity.

achillea Fri 16-Nov-12 11:44:01

I'd like to know if the government has backed the proposed legislation up with research on the impact this may have on children and families.

One reason that women have 2 weeks leave now is to ensure that newborn mothers aren't forced back to work when they are physically drained, another is so that babies are given an opportunity to bond with their mother. Now if a mother goes back 3 days after birth (possible but not likely) the baby will be bonding with someone else - this may be grandma, uncle, dad, nanny, whoever. If that is the case, who becomes main carer? If main carer is grandma, then who gets to make decisions about schools, diet, exercise etc?

I know a case like this where the mother is desperately confused as all the other carers are telling her what to do with her baby - on the one hand, she is the mother, on the other hand, they know better because they spend more time with the baby. The children are very confused and there is a lot of conflict and confusion around them.

After all the talk about a child-focused approach to services this new rule turns it upside down and says "well the child is important but more important is that things are convenient and arranged around the schedule of the carers".

In the good old days it was seen as an upper class lifestyle choice to have a nanny for your children, and the approach was never socially approved of (except among similar families). There is a reason for this, it is because most ordinary people feel a social duty that babies are bonded and connected with their mothers and not passed from pillar to post.

This discussion should not be about equality, feminism, even less about family finance or lifestyle choice, it should be a discussion about what is best for children.

PurpleGentian Fri 16-Nov-12 18:13:29

achillea - not sure where you've got this idea about mothers going back to work 3 days after birth from?

Currently compulsory maternity leave is 2 weeks, so technically it's illegal for a mother to go back to work 3 days after work. It looks like this will be unchanged in the proposed legislation.

I'm not really sure what relevance 2 weeks vs 3 days has to the rest of your argument.

I don't agree that the new proposals make the welfare of the child less important than the current rules do. In terms of the new rule, it means that in cases where the mother returns to work when the baby is very young (for whatever reason), the family will have the option of the father looking after the baby, instead of having to send the baby to carers outside the immediate family, which in most cases I know, is a nursery or childminder rather than one to one care from grandma / a nanny.

And whether you like it or not, family finance does come into it. In families where the mother is the main earner, the mother going back to work early can be essential if the family's going to keep a roof over their heads.

garlicbaguette Fri 16-Nov-12 19:40:37

Achillea - In the good old days there was no childcare and no time off for ordinary parents. Factory workers took turns to breast-feed their co-workers' babies at the factory gates. Kids were left unsupervised much of the time. Anybody who had a spare moment did the 'minding'; children were "passed from pillar to post" as routine. This SAHM bonding malarkey, while very nice, was deliberately invented to get women out of the workplace after WW2. It's a luxury and an anomaly.

Xenia Fri 16-Nov-12 21:42:39

PG that is true but only for employees so I was lucky enough to be able to take business calls within 24 hours of the twins being born and was not subject to the market interference whichi s the 2 week rule.

PurpleGentian Fri 16-Nov-12 22:47:18

Xenia - I suspected that self employed women might be able to easily get around that rule!

Not that they're talking about removing the 2 week rule anyhow.

Xenia Sat 17-Nov-12 07:48:40

The rule does not apply to the self employed as far as I know nor to housewives who often have to be looking after a toddler or doing the washing the day after birth. It is just employers who are not allowed to take back an employee until the 14 days from birth is up (it is 4 weeks for factory workers).
I'm not particularly against the 2 week rule and only 6 weeks on 90% pay is reasonable too as it reflects recovery period, 6 week check at the GP etc

. I just never was eligible for the 6 weeks at 90% pay and actually it's benefited me as roll on nearly 30 years and one reason I earn a lot is I was never stuck at home on maternity leave my career suddenly playing second fiddle to a man nor getting sexist roles established at home.

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