Nick Clegg unveils parental leave shake-up

Nick Clegg
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg Photo: David Jones/PA Wire

Parents will be able to share up to a year's leave to look after their newborn children under "radical" reforms announced by Nick Clegg today.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that from 2015 the UK will move to a new system of flexible parental leave as part of a huge shake-up of current arrangements.

Under other changes, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees to encourage different work patterns for parents.

ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Weiner reports.

Speaking at Third Door, a centre combining a workspace for parents and childcare for their children in Putney, west London, Mr Clegg said:

I find it remarkable, to be honest, that we have persisted with such outdated rules for so long.

I hope that with today's announcement we're yanking these rules into the 21st century.

The biggest change covers parental leave, so a mother will be able to trigger leave at any point so that whatever time is left to run on her original year off can be taken by her partner instead.

The changes will, Mr Clegg said, create greater equality across society, enabling women to continue with their careers alongside their child-rearing responsibilities.

Parents will be able to "chop up" time together or take time off together, as long as no more than 12 months is taken in total, with no more than nine at guaranteed pay.

Mr Clegg said he had considered extending paternity leave from the current two weeks, but concern had been voiced within Government and from business groups about the cost.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said:

Business owner and working mum Katie Hopkins criticised Mr Clegg's plans to give new parents flexible working hours.

She told Daybreak: "I can't be coping with flexitime, people leaving and arriving whenever they like. I need my staff in one place."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said:

We know that too many businesses are still reluctant to modernise working practices so the Government is right to give them a nudge with this new universal right to request flexible working.

These reforms will make life easier for millions of working parents.

Businesses will also benefit from a more engaged workforce and a larger pool of people to recruit from.

– TUC general secretary Brendan Barber

Currently, parents of children under 17, or under 18 if their child is disabled, can ask for more flexible working patterns, but the law will be changed - as soon as parliamentary time allows - extending the right to all employees, irrespective of whether they have a child.

Under the change, grandparents could apply for flexible working to help look after grandchildren.

What is parental leave?

Parental leave is when eligible employees can take unpaid parental leave to look after their child’s welfare, eg to:

  • Spend more time with their children
  • Look at new schools
  • Settle children into new childcare arrangements
  • Spend more time with family - eg visiting grandparents

Their employment rights (like the right to pay, holidays and returning to a job) are protected during parental leave.

What is flexible parental leave?

  • Under other changes, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees to encourage different work patterns for parents.
  • Clegg is expected to say that "clapped out" rules need to be changed to give women a "real choice" after taking a break from work to have children.
  • The biggest change covers parental leave, so a mother will be able to trigger leave at any point so that whatever time is left to run on her original year off can be taken by her partner instead.
  • Parents will be able to "chop up" time together or take time off together, as long as no more than 12 months is taken in total, with no more than nine at guaranteed pay.