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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,


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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!!

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

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.

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

freezer bags and ice packs. Thanks Xenia!

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)

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