A new law which extends the rights of working fathers could have the additional benefit of reducing discrimination against women in the workplace.
Adrian Marlowe, MD at Lawspeed, sees the forthcoming system of flexible parental leave as a step towards true gender equality in the recruitment process.
Marlowe said: “Whilst it is against the law to discriminate against women on the basis that they may have children and take a full year maternity leave, this thought is undoubtedly at the back of the minds of some managers when they are recruiting staff.
“But when the new flexible parental leave system comes into place in 2015 it will be possible and just as likely for men to take the lion’s share of the new 50 week paternity leave entitlement.
“It is no longer unusual for the woman to be the highest earning partner in a relationship and men are increasingly keen to spend more time with their children and see them growing up.
“Therefore an employer will be faced with the same risk of an employee taking a whole or part of a year off to care for their newborn baby, whether the candidate is male or female.”
It also means that women’s career progression is not halted due to motherhood, which is often the case today. If she is happy to leave dad holding the baby she can return to work and retain the options for advancement she has worked so hard for.
The changes to parental leave were announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in November and will come into force in 2015.
The new legislation proposes that after the mother has taken the compulsory two weeks maternity leave, directly after the birth of the baby, the remaining parental leave can now be shared between both partners.
Men’s entitlement to parental leave will increase from the current two weeks to up to 37 weeks with statutory pay or the full 50 weeks allowable, if the mother returns to work and leaves the father at home as the primary carer.
Alternatively the parents can ‘mix and match’ the leave available, taking the leave consecutively or, both concurrently up to the maximum amount that is available.
Last year Nick Clegg explained: “The only rule is that no more than 12 months can be taken in total; with no more than 9 months at guaranteed pay. And, of course, couples will need to be open with their employers, giving them proper notice.”
Good news or bad news?
So, the new law should lead to more choice and greater flexibility for all parents plus reduced discrimination and fewer barriers for working women.
The unions are delighted with the proposed new system but it remains to be seen what the cost and administrative burden will be on employers.
The government is favouring a “light administrative approach” but small businesses in particular are concerned about the impact the legislation may have in two years time.
For more information on current family-friendly legislation and the proposed changes to parental leave, contact Lawspeed on 01273 236 236.
To read more about men’s changing attitudes to parental leave and working part-time in order to spend more time with their families click here.