One of the biggest proposed changes to family friendly rights in recent years is shared parental leave, due to be introduced in 2015.
At present, fathers/partners are entitled to two week's ordinary paternity leave and pay. Additional paternity leave and pay of up to 26 weeks is available (to be taken in one continuous period); however certain conditions apply, including that the mother must have returned to work. Figures suggest that there has been very little take up of additional paternity leave.
Shared parental leave is a Lib-Dem initiative, aimed at providing parents with more choice and flexibility in how they share the care of their child in the early stages following birth. Shared parental leave would allow women to share up to 50 weeks' leave and 37 weeks' pay with their partners, to be taken concurrently or consecutively, in either single period or in non-consecutive periods. Nick Clegg was due to announce the precise details of the entitlement last month but press reports suggest that Conservative ministers have raised concerns about the potential burden on business.
According to reports, key areas of disagreement include:
- how many times workers can make changes to their plans for shared leave - Lib Dem figures are reportedly pushing for up to six changes and Conservative ministers for two changes;
- whether employers would be required to hold open an employee's specific job while on parental leave, or only a job of equivalent status - Conservatives are apparently pushing for the latter; and
- whether the amount of notice to be given by fathers returning to work should be the same as women (8 weeks) or a longer period - reportedly Conservatives are pushing for three months' advance notice.
Only time will tell whether these disputes can be resolved or whether the plans will be quietly pushed into the long grass.