Is Clegg right to offer flexible parental leave?
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wants to give parents the right to share and swap their statutory leave for looking after newborn babies.
That’s good news for parents, although the new arrangements have to be knocked into shape after consultation with employers and won’t come into force until 2015.
Clegg said in a speech on Monday to the Demos think tank that increasing flexibility over parental leave was a priority for him and for Prime Minister David Cameron. Both have young families and like most fathers these days have taken time out from work following their new arrivals.
At present mothers get up to a year’s statutory leave, including 39 weeks of pay, while fathers only qualify for two weeks’ of paid leave. Clegg wants to change that so that parents can divide up this time off as it suits them, even taking the leave at the same time if that is what they want.
Unions say the proposals are long overdue, but employers are less keen. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said Clegg’s plan might be politically popular but “fundamentally ignores” the needs of business. “How is an employer expected to plan and arrange cover with this fully-flexible system,” asked BCC director general David Frost.
Have employers got a valid point? Or is it more important to let parents decide how they will take time off to care for their new-born infants? Tell us what you think.