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New plan for parents to share six months of paid leave in first year

Working parents will get six months' paid leave in the first year after their child is born, under new plans being considered by the government.

Squeezed middle-income working families with young children will benefit from a range of measures being recommended in a new report on childcare.

Six months' paid parental leave, in addition to maternity benefit, is the big ticket item in the report compiled by a high-powered committee.


The measure would take a decade to implement in full, but would build up gradually from a month to six months.

"The proposal is to increase parental choice to remain as the primary care-giver of their child in the first year of life and to provide as much support as possible to the developing relationship between the parents and the child," the report says.

"The proposal is for the conversion of existing unpaid maternity leave to paid parental leave with the option for some sharing of the additional paid element between both parents.

"The scheme would provide for additional weeks of paid benefit for mothers and fathers in addition to, and to follow consecutively, existing maternity leave provision.

"It would include a minimum additional amount of paid leave/benefit for mothers (an extension of the existing maternity leave scheme) as well as additional weeks to be taken by either parent.

"The recommendation is that this leave would be increased incrementally over time to provide for as close as possible to one year."

The proposals are contained in the draft report of the interdepartmental working group on future investment in early-years and school-age care and education services.

The report also finds that just over one in four children under school-going age are in formal childcare and the existing free year of childcare is too short in terms of hours each day and the number of weeks a year.