New laws will allow parents to share leave
PARENTS will be able to share maternity leave and pay under family-friendly laws to be announced by David Cameron and Nick Clegg this month.
British fathers will be able to take time off work, and claim state benefits, throughout the majority of the first year of their baby's life if the mother returns to employment. This will allow the main household earner, if female, to return to work after just a fortnight.
After a cabinet disagreement over the impact of the scheme on hard-pressed businesses, the introduction of the paternal allowance will be delayed until October 2015.
The system of maternity allowance will be renamed "flexible parental leave" to make it clear that both the mother and father are entitled to it.
To address fears from women's charities, mothers will still automatically receive the assistance unless they transfer it to their partners. It is understood that mothers will only have to take the first fortnight of leave after the birth, for health reasons, after which fathers can take the paid time off work.
Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg will announce the scheme at the end of the month as part of a series of initiatives intended to demonstrate the coalition parties are working well together.
Official figures show that 420,000 families every year could benefit from the shared parenting proposal.
However, one Conservative minister described the parental allowance as a "crazy" proposal in the current economic environment.
"The last thing businesses should be saddled with at the moment is yet another round of regulation and uncertainty," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)