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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,


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...

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