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Parental leave sharing scheme to start in 2015

Fathers will be able to share 12 months of parental leave, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has announced.

He said: “We need to challenge the old-fashioned assumption that women will always be the parent that stays at home, many fathers want that option too.”

The policy, which was first outlined by the Lib Dems last year, will come into practice from April 2015. It aims to change the culture of the workplace so that women are not automatically expected to take all the leave, and men are no longer disparaged for choosing to work less to spend more time caring for their children.

Parents must give employers an indicative breakdown of how they plan to share the leave eight weeks before it starts. They will then be able to change the proposals twice.

Businesses must agree any proposed pattern and have the right to insist it is confined to a continuous block. Parents will only be entitled to get the same job back if they take less than six months off, and anyone who takes longer will potentially get a similar but not identical role.

The Government will review take-up of the scheme “once the economy is in a stronger position”.

Clegg said: “Women deserve the right to pursue their goals and not feel they have to choose between having a successful career or having a baby.

“They should be supported by their employers, rather than being made to feel less employable or under pressure to take unchallenging jobs.

“It is already illegal to sack a woman because she is pregnant, or on maternity leave, but we want to go further than that. We want to create a fairer society that gives parents the flexibility to choose how they share care for their child in the first year after birth.

“There shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all approach; that's not how families are set up. Many businesses already recognise how productive and motivated employees are when they're given the opportunity to work flexibly, helping them retain talent and boost their competitive edge.

“This is good for families, good for business and good for our economy.”

But the Institute of Directors described the new rights as a “nightmare” for employers. Deputy director of policy Alexander Ehmann said: “The proposed system is considerably more complex and unwieldy than the current laws and employers will – once again – have to absorb the cost of adapting and implementing this new system.”

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady added: “Shared parental leave is a welcome new step that should encourage more fathers to get involved in childcare from the very beginning. But unless it is backed up with better pay, many couples simply won't be able to afford to take it.”

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