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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,


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.

TravelinColour Tue 13-Nov-12 12:44:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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?

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