Parents to share maternity leave

The Government has announced that mums and dads can share the second six months’ leave after a baby is born. Plus other news.

UK Maternity pay and leave

Maternity pay and leave is a minefield and many working mums continue to be confused

The Government has announce that plans for mothers and fathers to be able to share parental leave will be delayed until April 2011 and plans to extend paid maternity leave from nine to 12 months are ‘under review’.

Fathers currently get up to two weeks’ paternity leave while mothers are allowed up to 12 months maternity leave, with pay guaranteed for nine months. Under the new scheme, mothers will still get the first six months off, but they will be able to share the second six months with their partner.

Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families, said: “This news is good for families, and also good for business.  It opens up new choices to many parents about how to look after their newborn child; and by giving fathers new rights at work, it begins to tackle gender inequality in the workplace, which costs the UK so dearly.”

She added that it was a step forward in changing the attitudes of employers to new parents. She said: “Gender inequality in the workplace is estimated to cost the UK a staggering £23bn.  We cannot afford to carry on throwing away money and talent like this.

This small step will begin to make fathers visible at work, and may help employers reconsider outdated assumptions that care for a new baby will automatically be 100% the responsibility of the mother.”

However, she called for fathers to be given an independent right to properly paid time-off for all fathers, rather than a transferable right available only to those fathers whose partners choose to return to work before the end of their maternity leave.

She said: “Experience in other European countries shows that this is what works best, and is most likely to lead to greater involvement with their children by fathers.

But until then, this is a good start.”

Surge in nanny sharing

The number of people using nanny shares has risen steeply in the last 18 months, says Nannytax, a firm which helps parents employing nannies.

Nannytax says nanny shares have risen from 17% of its workload to 24% in the last year and a half. It thinks this is due to the recession forcing more mums back into work and wanting to keep childcare costs down. It says sharing a nanny can be cheaper than using a nursery.

The organisation also says the internet has made the process of nanny sharing simpler and that there has been an influx of nannies from Eastern Europe, although most are still British. However, many now live out. Nannytax says up to 85% of nannies live out.
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TUC says work-life balance advice is the most requested equality issue. Unions are asked for guidance on work-life balance more frequently than any other issues, with two-thirds asking for advice.

The TUC 2009 Equality Audit found that 65% of unions were asked for work-life balance information, while 63% received requests for advice about women’s pay and equality.

Some 51% of unions successfully negotiated agreements for working parents and carers with employers, with 44% securing work-life balance agreements.

Daycare Trust calls for national finance support scheme for childcare

A national scheme offering financial help to parents with up-front childcare costs is needed to help parents pay for childcare, says the Daycare Trust.

It is issuing a report on the results of its Childcare Advance project, funded by Friends Provident Foundation. This investigates the help available to families when faced with up-front childcare costs, the extent to which parents experience difficulty meeting these costs and models potential options for a sustainable scheme offering financial help to parents with these costs.

In addition to a national financial support scheme, the Trust would also like to see a low cost loan delivered to parents by not-for-profit lenders and says this is the best way of supporting parents, both for long term sustainability of the scheme and for offering a better fit with financial help with ongoing childcare costs available to parents.

The Trust is looking to pilot different models of support for parents in the next stage of the project.

Swedes tackle lack of women in the boardroom

The Swedish government has begun a programme aimed at getting more women on company boards.

Up to 200 women will be matched with mentors and encouraged to network and learn about being a board member. They will also receive 10,000 Swedish kronor ($1,420) each in government grants.
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Dutch women want quality part-time work

Dutch women work part time because there are enough challenging jobs offered part time and because they want to, a study has concluded.

The Netherlands has the highest rate of women working part time in the OECD, and researchers Nicole Bosch, Bas van der Klaauw and Jan van Ours shows that, despite an tax incentive designed to get women to work, women chose to work fewer hours over all.  This was because this fitter better with family life and because Dutch companies were getting the message and providing better quality part-time jobs, they said.
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Aylesbury council introduces new HR programme

Aylesbury Vale District Council is planning to save £1m a year using a new programme which includes moves aimed at making flexible working easier.

Its Best People, Best Council programme looks at new ways to exploit existing talent at the council, based on competency rather than experience and technical qualifications, so that jobs can be filled internally. However, a big saving has come with introducing an online leave and time recording system, accessible remotely, which makes it easier for people to work flexibly from home.

Long working hours affect family mealtimes

Long working hours affects family mealtimes, meaning parents eat at irregular times and often do not eat with the family, says a report by researchers at Cornell University.

Carol Devine of the Division of Nutritional Sciences at the university says: “Long work hours and irregular schedules mean more time away from family, less time for household food work, difficulty in maintaining a regular meal pattern, and less opportunity to participate in family meals.”
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TUC talks of job threats

The TUC claims more than 700,000 public sector workers could lose their jobs due to public spending cuts.

Its calculations are based on a cut of 10% in public sector staff. It predicts Merseyside and Wales would be particularly badly hit.
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