Yesterday local MP Jo Swinson and Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, announced radical reforms that will allow mums and dads to share up to a year's leave to look after their newborn children.
The changes will deliver on a long held Liberal Democrat commitment to make parental leave more flexible, allowing fathers to play a greater role in raising their child, helping mothers to return to work at a time that's right for them and creating more flexible workplaces to boost the economy.
New proposals were also announced to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, to give greater choice and freedom to workers and businesses.
Commenting further Jo said:
"Liberal Democrats have long supported more flexible working and parental leave and I'm incredibly proud as the Minister responsible that the Coalition Government has delivered these revolutionary reforms.
"Current arrangements are old-fashioned and inflexible. Mums and dads should be able to choose how they juggle their lives at work and at home.
"Gradually employers will get used to more men taking time off after their child is born, and more women returning to work, removing the maternity discriminatory that persists with some employers: if I hire this woman, or if I promote her, will she leave to have a child?
"It's also good news for business as it will create a more motivated and productive workforce. Employers will be able to attract and retain women in their organisations and prevent women dropping out of the workforce once they start a family. In turn this wider pool of talent will help to diversify our economy and drive growth.
"In the 21st century parental leave should be about fairness for women in the workplace and equality for men and women as they plan their families and careers.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said:
"Liberal Democrats believe that our current system of maternity leave is out-of-date and out-of-step with the wishes of modern parents who want much greater flexibility in how they look after their children.
"I believe reform is long overdue and the changes we are making will shatter the perception that women have to be the primary care-givers. In the future, both mothers and fathers will be able to take control of how they balance those precious first months with their child and their careers.
"This is good news not only for parents and parents-to-be, but employers too who will benefit from a much more flexible and motivated workforce."
- Under the new system of flexible parental leave, parents will be able to choose how they share care of their child in the first year after birth. Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave. However, working parents will be able to opt to share the leave.
- Mothers will have to take at least the initial two weeks of leave after birth as a recovery period, but following that they can choose to end the maternity leave and the parents can opt to share the remaining leave as flexible parental leave. It will be up to both parents to decide how they share the remaining weeks of the leave.
- New proposals are also announced today to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, to give greater choice and freedom to workers and businesses. This will remove the cultural expectation that flexible working only has benefits for parents and carers, allowing individuals to manage their work alongside other commitments and improving the UK labour market by providing more diverse working patterns. For example, grandparents could apply for flexible working to help care for their grandchildren.
- Evidence from the Employers Worklife Balance survey in 2007 shows flexible working creates a productive and motivated workforce, saves employers money from reduced absenteeism and lower turnover costs, and allows them to retain highly skilled staff.
- The Coalition Government's plan to legislate on this next year and will introduce the changes to flexible working in 2014 and to flexible parental leave in 2015.
- Liberal Democrats have a strong record of supporting more flexible working:
- 2010 election manifesto: 'Liberal Democrats will improve life for your family. On top of our tax cuts to put £700 in the pockets of millions of low and middle-income earners, we will allow mums and dads to share parental leave between them so they can arrange family life in the way that suits them best.'
- 2009 Conference Policy Paper 'The Best Start for Children, the Best Deal for Families': 'Flexibility, allowing families to make the choices which best suit their circumstances… The introduction of shared parental leave would give both parents a real opportunity to take meaningful time away from work to bond with and care for a new child. Above all, it would also properly recognise the role that so many fathers want to play in raising and bonding with their children.'
- 1997 election manifesto: 'Expand parental rights: We will introduce a statutory right to parental leave and develop Maternity Benefit into a new, flexible parental benefit to be shared between partners. We will ensure that fostering and adoption law is based on the suitability of prospective fosterers and the needs of the child.'
- 1995 policy paper 'Equal Citizens':'While endorsing the new maternity rights as a step in the right direction, we believe that parental rights as a whole should be extended further to match standards for fathers and mothers elsewhere in the EU.'