Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker has welcomed Nick Clegg’s announcement that parental leave can now be shared between mothers and fathers at minimal extra cost to business.
The old-fashioned assumption is that women will always be the parent that stays at home – many fathers want that option too. That is why from April 2015 the coalition government is introducing shared parental leave to allow couples to split the existing 52 weeks of maternity leave, making a joint decision that ensures all career options remain open to women after pregnancy.
Employers can gain from a system which allows them to keep talented women in the workforce and have more motivated and productive staff. This new system will also give us a great opportunity to make our workforce even more flexible, help working families and boost economic growth.
The changes, which were proposed in the 2010 Lib Dem manifesto, give women greater freedom in pursuing their goals and will hopefully reduce the feeling that they have to choose between having a successful career and having a baby. They should be supported by their employers, rather than being made to feel less employable or under pressure to take unchallenging jobs.
It is already illegal to sack a woman because she is pregnant or on maternity leave. This new ruling creates a fairer society that gives parents the flexibility to choose how they share care for their child in the first year after birth.
The proposals for shared parental leave and flexible working are included in the Children and Families Bill 2013 which is currently going through Parliament. The details will be set out in regulations.
“I am pleased to see this big step towards parental equality. Allowing both parents to share the 52 weeks of leave stops the current situation in which businesses can lose a valued female employee for an entire year, now, at no extra costs to business, the time can be divided between the mother and father.
“As a father myself I really appreciate the time I had with my daughter in the first year of her life. I feel the early connection invites a stronger relationship between parents and their children and both mothers and fathers should be entitled to this.”