Following the birth of a child, it is important for parents to have time to bond with and care for their newborn infant. One important way of supporting families to do this is through maternity and paternity leave and pay.
Currently employed mothers are entitled to one year’s statutory maternity leave, divided into Ordinary Maternity Leave and Additional Maternity Leave. Employed fathers are entitled to two week’s paid paternity leave following the birth of a child and a further 26 weeks leave if the mother returns to work instead of taking her Additional Maternity Leave.
In 2011 the government put forward proposals for a new system of ‘flexible parental leave’ in its Modern Workplaces consultation. Mothers’ Union responded, welcoming the choice and flexibility offered but cautioning against any loss of hard won maternity rights.
In November 2012 the UK government announced the new system of flexible parental leave to be introduced in 2015. Mothers will still be entitled to a year’s leave but will be able to transfer it to the father any time after the first two weeks. Parents can organise this time to suit their needs, whether taking time off together or taking it in turns.