Changes in parental leave: a (baby) step in the right direction?

Flexible parental leave is set to become law in 2015 as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg claims that the current rules “may have made sense in the 1950′s but not today”.

The Deputy PM announced the plan on 13 November in a speech in London.

Reporting on the announcement, The Telegraph echoed claims that the plan will allow parents to share up to 12 months of paternal leave when they have a child.

Among other changes, such as equal rights for adoptive parents and fathers being allowed to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments, parents will be given the flexibility to be able to take the 12 months off work collectively and given the right to organise their time as they wish as long as no more that 12 months is taken – but no more than 9 of those months at guaranteed pay.

Clegg’s motivation for the plan is to give fathers a right to greater participation in their child’s first year of life.

But he also said: ”We, as a society, we have got so much better at telling young women: the sky’s the limit. Get a job; be independent; be the boss; run as far and as fast as your talents can take you.”

“Then, suddenly, when they hit their late 20s, their early 30s, despite all their earlier momentum, despite all the endless possibility, they are suddenly stopped in their tracks.

“It’s like a rubber band snaps these women back. Because, the moment they start planning a family, their options begin to narrow.”

The new plan is indeed a positive one, but it is the seventh parental leave change in a decade and companies will have to adapt quickly ensuring that all employees are aware of their rights.

In the speech, which you can read here, Clegg said that the plan will be reviewed in 2018 to asses whether couples are using the combined leave and if adjustments need to be made.

Although the change will not come into action for another 2 years, the fact that the government is openly discussing the need for change will hopefully empower and inspire fathers into exercising their existing paternal rights and shake off some of the stigma attached to flexible working.

And Clegg admits himself that these changes are “a number of small steps, rather than one giant leap”.

Originally Published on Women’s Views on News

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