A new law for shared paternity leave is soon to be passed. The law will allow parents with children due on, or after 5th April 2015 to opt out of maternity leave and share their remaining leave and statutory pay with their co-parent. This is a new scheme which advances parental leave and is in reaction to creating a system which is equal for both parents.
Parents will be able to share up to 50 weeks leave between them. They can take this leave at the same time or separately and can choose to intersperse periods of work and leave. For the first time this gives parents the opportunity to share the work-life balance equally.
Nick Clegg has fronted this government change arguing that we will get ‘a properly flexible’ system of parental leave which will replace the current ‘Edwardian’ system. Yet although this shows a progress in giving equal opportunity to both the mother and father, it is questionable how a statutory rate of £125 a week, can be affordable for a family. Furthermore in the case where father’s are the higher earners, this could put additional pressure on the family.
The other issue is breastfeeding. The scheme does appear to offer a development for a fairer system where parents can choose between who works and who looks after the baby, but in reality the mother is the only one who can breastfeed the baby. This seems to conflict with the government’s commitment to the World Health Organisation that recommends that babies are breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. The argument remains why leave needs to be taken within 46 weeks of the birth, and perhaps a more advisable period would be up to 2-5 years, so that the father could take leave later on, and allow assistance for a mother to return back to work.
The mother must still take two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave after the child’s birth. Primary adopters will also have to take a minimum of two weeks’ adoption leave before accessing SPL. Fathers and co-parents retain their right to take two weeks paternity leave.
To find out more about the employee guidelines of the new government legislation please go the gov.uk website –