Government proposes paternity leave to rise to five and a half months

Dan Martin
Former editor
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Ministers have today launched a consultation on radical new plans allowing fathers to claim up to five and a half months leave after the birth of a child.

The proposals, which form part of the 'Modern Workplaces' consultation, would see a significant increase in time-off for new dads. 

Under the current rules, which the government says are "too rigid" and "outdated", mothers are able to take 12 months off work, nine months of which are paid. Fathers are entitled to two weeks' paid leave.

But if the plans made it into law new mothers would automatically receive five weeks paid time off with fathers receiving an extra four weeks. In addition, couples would be allowed to divide another seven months, four months paid, between them.

Unlike the current system this leave could be taken in a number of different blocks and both parents could take leave at the same time. Employers would be able to ensure that the leave is taken in one continuous period if agreement can't be reached and would be able to ask staff to return for short periods to meet peaks in demand or to require that leave is taken in one continuous block, depending on business needs.
Business secretary Vince Cable said: "Our proposals will encourage greater choice by giving employees and their employers the flexibility to find arrangements to suit them both. New parents should be able to choose their childcare arrangements for themselves, rather than being dictated to by rigid Government regulation as is currently the case. And employers should be encouraged to come to agreement with employees on how work and family responsibilities can be met simultaneously.
"Of course I'm mindful of the need to minimise the costs, bureaucracy and complexities on businesses. This has been at the forefront of my mind throughout the development of our proposals. So we will ensure that businesses will still be able to take into account their needs when agreeing how leave can be taken.
"But I'm also confident that we have a good case to make on the wider benefits to business - not least from a motivated and flexible workforce and we will be making this case to employers over the next few years before these changes are introduced."
The consultation also covers other areas:
Flexible working
  • Extending the right to request for all workers who have been with their employer for 26 weeks.
  • The government will consider publishing a statutory Code of Practice for businesses and will propose that employers should be allowed to take into account employees individual circumstances when considering conflicting requests.
  • There are no plans to alter the current eigth business reasons for a business to turn down a request.
  • The government said it recognises that legislation is not the only answer to promoting flexible working practices. Non-legislative measures are being developed to promote flexible working opportunities both for those with a job and for those looking for one.
Equal pay
  • Employment Tribunals that have found an employer to have discriminated on gender in relation to pay, will order the employer to conduct a pay audit and publish their results. Except in some circumstances, such as where an audit has already been conducted.

Employment relations minister Edward Davey and business secretary Vince Cable explain the consultation:


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