Parental leave split between mum and dad…what could it actually mean?

Will the new parental leave plans untangle the knots that working parents often find themselves in?
Will the new parental leave plans untangle the knots that working parents often find themselves in?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched proposals to make major changes to the current parental leave rights, saying it would give both mums and dads greater support and flexibility in raising their children.

Nicola Brewer, the Commission’s Chief Executive, argued that increases in maternity leave have brought welcome support for mothers in the past decade, but said that without looking at more leave for fathers in their own right and leave parents can share between them, according to what best fits their personal circumstances, we risk entrenching the career penalty women pay at work, and the parenting penalty men pay at home.

The proposals, which are outlined in the Commission’s recent report, Working Better, will be delivered in a three-step plan to be completed by 2020, starting with low-income parents and fathers who the Commissions says are missing out on the current parental leave rights.

The proposed changes to parental leave are also intended to tackle the gender pay gap (which, let’s face it, is more than welcome among working mothers, and women in general), by providing more support and social benefits to parents and children.

So what would parental leave look like between now and 2020?

For mothers:

  • The first 26 weeks would remain dedicated maternity leave for mothers. The number of weeks paid at 90 per cent pay would be increased from six weeks to 26 weeks
  • After six months, mothers would get the same ‘parental leave’ arrangements as fathers.

For fathers:

  • The first two weeks? paternity leave at the birth of their child would be retained, but at 90 per cent pay
  • Four months of dedicated ‘parental leave’ which can be taken after the mother’s six month?s maternity leave comes to an end. This right would be available until their child’s fifth birthday
  • At least eight weeks of that leave should be supported at 90 per cent of pay.

For both:

  • Four month’s parental leave that either parent can take, at least eight weeks at 90 percent of pay.

For low-income parents:

  • The research found that fathers in families with an income of up to ?15,000 are much less likely (46 per cent) to take paternity leave than those in the highest income group (59 per cent).
  • 48 per cent of mothers who are lone parents are far more likely to take a short period of maternity leave, compared to 31 per cent of mothers in a relationship.
  • The Commission’s recommendations would increase the rates of pay for both mothers and fathers, ensuring more low income and single parents can afford to take leave.
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