25. June 2010 14:23
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, announced the creation of a Childhood and Families Task Force last week. It will look at, amongst other things, how to encourage shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy. This includes a system of flexible parental leave to give fathers more time with their young children.
No further details have been given, and we remain bemused by the Government’s failure to acknowledge the existence of the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010. These became law just before the election and allow mothers to transfer a large part of their maternity leave to fathers when they return to work (members can see our mini-guide )
Unless the Coalition repeals or amends these Regulations, they will apply to parents of babies born from 3 April 2011. If you do the maths, this means that they will apply to women who become pregnant in the next month or so.
Nick Clegg’s announcement is confusing. If there is to be a review of paternity leave rights, we would want the implementation of the Regulations to be delayed. We do not want to see legislation coming into force only to be quickly changed.
What other laws might the Government introduce to encourage more shared parenting of young children? Well, fathers are also already entitled to take parental leave in the same way as mothers and have the same rights as mothers to request flexible working. And in the current economic climate, we would be surprised to see any increase either in statutory maternity and paternity pay, or a move towards paid parental leave.
Our guess is that the hype about shared parenting for young children will result in tweaks to the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations and a new right entitling fathers-to-be to accompany their pregnant partner to ante natal appointments.
We will keep you posted.