Plans for flexible parental leave announced

Flexible parental leave is announced in the Queen’s Speech.

parents on shared parental leave


Flexible parental leave

The Queen outlined plans for a Children and Families’ Bill under which mothers in England, Scotland and Wales will be able to transfer some of their maternity leave to their partners, sharing the 52 weeks off after the birth of a child.
Also outlined were plans to speed up the adoption process and to make race considerations less important. There will be more choice in education for children with special needs and the law will be strengthened to ensure children whose parents separate maintain a relationship with both parents if that is in their best interests.

Cutting back on ‘red tape’

In addition the Speech set out plans to cut back “red tape” and overhaul the workplace dispute resolution system through a “more efficient and streamlined tribunal system for all users” which emphasises early conciliation.

Campaign groups have expressed concern that, under flexible parental leave, the presumption will be that women should return to work 18 weeks after the birth of their babies. They are calling for this to be extended to 26 weeks.

Working Families Chief Executive Sarah Jackson said: ”We want to see more choice and flexibility for fathers to share the care, and more paternity leave would be a great step forward.  But the Government consulted on cutting maternity leave to 18 weeks which is a step too far. Pushing women back to work too soon will bring hidden costs to employers.   There’s still time for the Government to change their minds and guarantee six months for mums.

“We’re disappointed that there was nothing about extending flexible working rights in the Queen’s speech. Good employers already offer flexible working to all their employees because they know that it leads to high performance and reduces costs.  We urge the Government to include an extension of the right to request flexible working in their programme to boost economic growth and help everyone get the work–life balance they need.”

Levelling the playing field

Ceri Goddard, the Fawcett’ Society’s Chief Executive, said:“We welcome the government’s commitment to levelling the playing field when it comes to parental leave entitlements for women and men. The spirit of proposed reforms recognises that current working practices are holding back progress in tackling the gender pay gap and delivering greater workplace equality for women.

“Current working practices rely on outdated ideas about the way families care for children. Dramatically different leave entitlements for mothers and fathers when a child is born mean many families – who thus far might have had fairly equitable arrangements in the home – find themselves forced to conform to old fashioned ideas about breadwinner and carer roles.

“The Government’s Modern Workplaces consultation, due to report soon, contained some radical ideas about ensuring Britain’s workplaces are fit for the 21st century which we warmly welcomed. However, the plans include reducing the amount of ring fenced maternity leave to 18 weeks – a step with many unintended, dangerous consequences for women’s maternal health and access to continued secure, quality employment. If the Coalition are serious about delivering on their ‘family friendly agenda’, the Bill will ensure both mothers and fathers have access to reasonable, and well paid, leave entitlements to care for their families. As a minimum, women should be entitled to 26 weeks of ring fenced, paid maternity leave to avoid risks to their health and to protect family incomes.”

She added that she was concerned that Government plans to cut back “red tape”, for instance, around unfair dismissals, could “all too easily mean scaling back on equality”.

She said: “Considered against a 25-year high in women’s unemployment, watering down these kinds of regulations poses a very real threat to women’s ability to get and keep work. A healthy labour market cannot exist if women are not enabled to take their rightful part in it.”

Comments [1]

  • Anonymous says:

    Our elected Government plans to bolster the legal right of a child to have a meaningful and on-going relationship with both its parents, post separation/divorce. It recognises that family law, as it currently stands, all too often fails to serve a child’s best interests in this extremely important respect.
    The Children Act (1989) rightly instructed the judiciary to serve the child’s paramount interests. However, the judiciary has singularly failed to understand or accept that a child’s paramount interests are, in the vast majority of cases, actually best served by facilitating and enforcing its meaningful relationship with both its parents. Instead, the judiciary has remained wedded to the archaic ‘single parent’, ‘primary carer’ model; an approach which has, sadly, led to a generation of fatherless children. Relocation law is a prime example: it rides rough-shod over any notion of shared parenting by placing thousands of miles between children and one of their parents. The judiciary’s approach is out of date and simply does not reflect the modern-day realities of 21st Century shared parenting.
    The aim of our Government’s proposed legislative changes is to make it very explicit to the judiciary that, for most children in litigated cases, ‘best interests’ equates to ‘shared parenting’.
    Let us hope that any amendment to the Children Act (1989) will be robust enough to safeguard a child’s right to be parented by both its parents. Let us also remember that this issue is not about parents’ rights: it is entirely about childrens’ rights.
    Furthermore, let us be absolutely clear that Shared Parenting does NOT, as many critics would have us believe, necessitate a precise 50/50 split of parenting time. This would be highly impractical in most cases. Rather, it is expected to range upwards from 20/80. Another objection from the critics is that it will endanger children. Very plainly, Shared Parenting will only be granted to parents who are not a proven risk to their children. Unsubstantiated allegations made by bitter and disgruntled ex-partners – intent on using ‘their children as weapons’, to coin Sir Nicholas Wall’s expression – ought not to be enough!
    It is a very great pity that the judiciary has failed to be proactive on Shared Parenting. For example, in the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division, was presented with no less than 15 contemporary scientific psychological and sociological research reports which demonstrated, beyond all reasonable doubt, the verifiable benefits for children of maintaining close and meaningful relationships with both parents. This irrefragable scientific evidence went ignored or relegated by him. In contrast, our Government, to whom the scientific evidence was also sent, is taking full heed. This is precisely why our elected Government needs to legislate. Child welfare is far too important to leave in the hands of a few un-elected High Court judges, who often seem to be out of touch with modern society and family life, and who appear to have little understanding of the importance of scientific evidence.
    Best regards
    Bruno D’Itri

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