From April next year, parents will be able to share 52 weeks of parental leave between them after having a child, the government has announced.
The new system will allow parents to distribute their 52 weeks of parental leave as they see fit, although there is an obligatory fortnight of recovery for the mother, immediately after giving birth.
Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister said that the move would benefit both parents, allowing mothers more ability to better juggle their career and having a child, whilst allowing the father to have a more involved role in the care of the baby.
Currently, under rules in place since April 2011, fathers have been able to take up to six months of the 52 weeks of leave on offer. Once the baby is 20 weeks old, however, the leave taken by each parent must be taken in a single block of time.
The new approach will mean that parents can divide up the leave as they wish, and take time off more flexibly rather than in a single chunk. Importantly, anyone who chooses to take leave for six months or less must be permitted to return to the same role afterwards.
“There shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all approach; that's not how families are set up,” said Mr Clegg. “Many businesses already recognise how productive and motivated employees are when they're given the opportunity to work flexibly, helping them retain talent and boost their competitive edge.
"This is good for families, good for business and good for our economy."
Some business groups are wary of the reforms. The Institute of Directors claim that they would “heap yet more burdens on struggling employers”.
However, business owners still have to approve any leave, and they would be able to confine parents to taking time off in a single continuous block.
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